Cruising: With CSO gone, booking season hopes mount

Written by Nick Blenkey
Commissioner Sola led cruise fact vfinding

Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis E. Sola : “I hope to never see another no sail or conditional sail order issued.”

We’re now into the cruise industry’s “Wave season,” the three-month period from January 1 to March 31 when — prior to COVID — cruise lines and travel agents historically booked the largest number of guest reservations. Think of it as a long “Back Friday.”

What happens between now and March 31 will be a key pointer as to how soon the industry can recover.

One thing cruising has going for it is that it has been untied from nanny’s apron strings in that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) “Temporary Extension & Modification of Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO)” expired January 15. It is now being left to cruise lines to decide whether or not to follow the CDC’s guidelines on a voluntary basis.

CLIA (the Cruise Lines International Association) said that the transition to a voluntary program “recognizes the cruise industry’s unwavering commitment to providing some of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation found in any industry. Cruise is the only segment of travel and tourism that requires, prior to embarkation for both passengers and crew, exceedingly high levels of vaccination (approaching 100% compared to only 63% on land in the U.S.) and 100% testing of every individual (over 20 times the rate in the U.S.).”

“Given this oversight and the uniquely high vaccination rate required on board, the incidence of serious illness is dramatically lower than on land, and hospitalizations have been extraordinarily rare even while landside hospitalizations are peaking,” said CLIA, noting that its ocean-going cruise line members “will continue to be guided by the science and the principle of putting people first, with proven measures that are adapted as conditions warrant to protect the health of cruise passengers, crewmembers, and destinations.”


Meantime, on January 14, the Federal Maritime Commission released the final report of its Fact Finding Investigation 30 into COVID-19 and the cruise industry, led by FMC Commissioner Louis E. Sola.

The passenger cruise industry is a vital economic engine for ports and cities across the United States and is an important source of jobs for Americans from all walks of life.” said Commissioner Sola..”Shutting down ships for an indeterminate amount of time had a negative economic impact on the people who rely on cruise ships for income, or the ports and communities that benefit from vessel calls. Determining what needed to be accomplished to allow ships to sail and minimize risks to passengers and crews was a priority for the Fact Finding from its first day,”

“Sensible and effective safety and health protocols can successfully minimize potential exposure to communicable diseases aboard a vessel, whether COVID-19 or some other pathogen.” noted Sola. “Ports and cruise lines have aggressively pursued creating the standards and infrastructure that allows ships to sail and be prepared to manage any health contingency that manifests itself. I hope to never see another no sail or conditional sail order issued.”

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