The United States Senate introduced legislation yesterday (April 13) that will revoke the conditional sailing order (CSO) that has effectively closed US waters to the cruise industry since the beginning of the pandemic. The legislation demands that the CDC revoke the CSO by July 4 and “any other order or regulation that prohibits the operation of all cruise ships in United States waters.” If passed in both houses of Congress, the legislation would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to offer mitigation guidance for cruise companies so that they can start domestic operations.
The Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements (Cruise) Act was introduced by Republican senators from states who are closely connected to the cruise industry, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, both of Florida; and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.
The legislation also demands that the CDC issue recommendations on “how to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 introduction, transmission and spread among passengers and crew onboard cruise ships and ashore to communities” by June 1.
Needless to say, travel industry executives are supporting the bill and are calling for a roadmap to re-open all travel.
Tori Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association, said: “We really believe no sector of the travel industry should be unable to reopen.”
Last week, Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis’ administration announced that it was preparing to take legal action against the CDC to force it to lift its CSO. Meanwhile, the CDC issued its own statement on April 7 saying that it was “committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the conditional sailing order”.
But this bill raises the stakes considerably.
“The CDC’s refusal to properly address this shutdown is wrong, and it’s time to get the cruise lines open safely,” Sen. Rick Scott said. “Our bill, the Cruise Act, says we’re not waiting on the CDC any longer. Cruises can and should resume, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring back our cruise industry safely.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan added, “unlike the airlines, rail and other modes of transportation – and all other sectors of the hospitality industry, for that matter – the cruise lines have been denied clear direction from the CDC on how to resume operations. The foot-dragging, mixed messages and unresponsiveness of CDC leaders is totally unacceptable and ultimately endangering the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Americans and the hundreds of small businesses across Alaska that rely on the tourism sector.”
“The benefits of cruise operations are integral to the economies of Florida’s port cities,”Sen. Rubio said. “Floridians and many other Americans who are employed by ports, cruise operators, or work in hospitality jobs near cruise terminals face an uncertain future because of the CDC’s unresponsiveness to requests for guidance by stakeholder groups. I am proud to join Senators Sullivan and Scott in introducing legislation that would require the CDC to provide guidance to safely resume operations this summer, and allow Florida’s economy to recover even further.”