Travel advisors were far from mixed on their opinions regarding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extension of the no sail order through Oct. 31, as well as the U.S. government’s reported decision to veto the agency’s recommendation to extend the order through February 2021.
The general consensus? It’s high time to hit the high seas again.
“It was the right decision for the cruise industry to voluntarily suspend operations, but the industry is being hamstringed by any mandatory extension and it is time to start implementing the responsible and safe return to operations. The cruise industry continues to be singled out by the CDC – resorts, hotels, theme parks, restaurants and airlines are not having to defend their safe return to business at this caliber,” said Vicky Garcia, COO and co-owner of Cruise Planners , an American Express Travel Representative.
“We support the science-based plan that the cruise industry’s Safe Sail Panel presented to the CDC and believe these safety protocols puts public health and people first including travelers, the crew and port employees.”
She noted that according to an ASTA study, 73 percent of travelers who have taken a cruise within the past year are ready to go on a cruise now. “Ultimately, it is up to individual travelers to determine their own risk assessment when it comes to any type of travel,” Garcia said.
Cal Cheney of Bucket List Travel and Tours is of a similar mind.
“As much as I don't want any more false starts and bad publicity from an outbreak on board a ship, I think it’s time to start allowing adults to make their own decisions,” he said. “In another month, it appears there will be enough testing available for people to safely integrate back into their lives or self-quarantine for a week or so.”
He added that there was one caveat regarding his opinion about the Oct. 31 no sail date. “While I think another month is fine, a statement should be made now along the lines of, ‘If we have no major outbreaks, we expect to allow sailing November 1,’ as opposed to just going month to month.”
Marcy Zyonse of Live the Dream Travel, an affiliate of Travel Experts, said, "The cruise lines have come up with a more well thought and extensive plan than I could have ever imagined. We have to start somewhere in the process of resuming cruising. It may be a while before ships get back to capacity, but in the meantime, a partnership between the government and the cruise lines with low capacity, short sailings, strict guidelines and contingency plans seems like a reasonable first step.”
Richard Turen of Churchill & Turen also believes lines are ready to resume operations.
“It is fascinating to me that the consumer travel media has not reported that during the height of the COVID outbreaks earlier this year, the world’s top-10 rated cruise lines operated without any reported major COVID outbreaks,” he said. “If you imagine small- and intermediate-size luxury ships as top-tier boutique hotels that have the ability to float from place to place, you can envision a scenario where a ship becomes a continually cleaned model of proper protocols and concern for guests.”
For James Ferguson of Travel Edge, there’s no time like the present to begin cruising again. “With strict health protocols now in place and indications by cruise lines to sail at less capacity, I feel the time is right to get back to cruising now,” he said. “While some may not wish to cruise until a proven vaccine is available, this remains a personal decision. The cruise industry has suffered enough.”