Months after cruise ships resumed business following pandemic no-sail orders with strict new policies in place that mandate guests and crews be vaccinated and tested, a U.S. Senator is calling for the cruise industry to be shut down again after covid outbreaks were reported on at least 90 vessels.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday stopped short of docking cruise ships, but increased the risk level for cruise ship travel to the highest level and said it should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status.
New outbreaks on cruise ships forecast stormy seas for cruise lines, which were capitalizing on pent-up travel before omicron hit and had hoped to return to profitability in 2022. The pandemic has cost the cruise industry billions and companies took on massive debt in the wake of the eight-month no-sail order.
The CDC is investigating clusters of covid outbreaks suspected of being breakthrough cases onboard cruise liners in people who have been vaccinated, Fortune reported.
Almost 90 cruise ships are experiencing covid outbreaks, according to CDC data collected Dec. 27. More than 77 percent of ships operating or planning to operate in U.S. waters—111 in all— are being investigated due to positive case numbers aboard, according to the report.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged the CDC to act against the cruise ships. “Time for CDC & cruise lines to protect consumers & again pause—docking their ships. Cruises are repeating recent history as petri dishes of COVID infection,” Blumenthal tweeted on Tuesday.
The CDC on Thursday raised the travel risk level for cruise travel from Level 3 to Level 4, which means it now considers the covid-19 to be “very high,” CNN reported.
“CDC is out here protecting the stock market and the speculative bubble. The CDC could be just as fearful of the Fed of this overextended bubble unwinding,” The Moguldom Nation CEO Jamarlin Martin tweeted.
Shares of Carnival, the world’s largest cruise company, rose after the company said it expected to be profitable in the second half of 2022, Bloomberg reported on Dec. 20. Occupancy rates rose to 58 percent in the fourth quarter. Carnival resumed cruises to Alaska and the Caribbean in the summer of 2021. The company reported that bookings for the second half of 2022 are at a historical high.
Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian — the world’s three largest cruise lines — lost a combined $900 million per month during the pandemic, according to credit rating agency Moody’s, the New York Times reported.
The Cruise Lines International Association said it was perplexed with the CDC’s elevated risk level, claiming that the number of cases on board was proportionally lower than the population at large.
“… cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard — far fewer than on land — and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore,” CLIA said in a statement.
The association said that “cruise ships offer a highly controlled environment with science-backed measures, known testing and vaccination levels far above other venues or modes of transportation and travel, and significantly lower incidence rates than land.”
Sen. Blumenthal’s call for docking cruise ships was seen by some on social media as an attack on the industry and hypocritical.
“With all due respect, sir, you must have never been on a cruise to make a statement like this. Cruise lines have gone above and beyond measures enacted by any other industry to ensure guest and crew safety” tweeted Brian C Carty
“What’s the diff between a cruise and a concert or a shopping mall?” Bonaire
“No, thank you. Are you also going to shut down airlines and hotels? I doubt it. Cruise lines have taken more precautions than any other travel industry and have been held to a higher standard” @beckatbear tweeted.
“Cruise lines weren’t sailing & 800k people died. How many folks have COVID from going to football games unmasked & no requirement for vax? Your response aligns with Trump’s theory..if don’t test, we don’t have a problem” JustCurious tweeted @robinwash.
Cruise Ship photo: sgbirch, https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephen-birch/
Covid image: Ben（busy, https://www.flickr.com/photos/129635229@N02/
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