In a potentially damaging move for the cruise industry, the U.S. State Dept. on Sunday issued an advisory recommending Americans not travel by cruise ship due to “increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment.”
The advisory came just a day after Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the U.S. response team to the virus, met with cruise line executives and members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). The meeting concluded with an agreement to development more stringent boarding procedures, temperature screenings at embarkation and additional onboard medical personnel.
But a day later, the State Dept. posted the advisory.
“U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship. CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment,” the State Dept. said.
Calling it “a fluid situation,” the advisory noted that the Centers For Disease Control recommended that “older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships.”
The advisory is not a ban on taking a cruise nor a cease and desist to cruise lines to stop operating their routes. But the State Dept. also made it very clear that despite the government’s previous intervention of evacuating Americans from quarantined cruise ships, “repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.”
According to CLIA, cruising is a $53 billion industry just in the U.S. alone, making the decision by the State Dept. a potential financial landmine.
The industry appears to be evaluating the decision before making any response; as of Monday morning, there have been few statements reacting to the advisory.
TravelPulse’s sister publication, Travel Weekly, did receive an email from Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. corporate reputation manager Jonathon Fishman on Sunday night saying: “We are staying focused on development of an aggressive, responsive plan as agreed to during the meeting with Vice President Pence that goes beyond the already significantly enhanced protocols in place, which we believe are a model for others.”
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