SILVER SPRING, Md. – The cruise industry has jettisoned hopes of restarting operations this year.
Days after both Carnival and Norwegian extended a halt on cruises through the end of the year, the group that represents cruise lines with 95% of global ocean-going capacity said Tuesday that its members have agreed to extend the suspension of U.S. sailing operations for the rest of 2020.
The announcement comes just days after the U.S. government effectively lifted its no-sail order despite a global spike in coronavirus infections.
Cruise Lines International Association — which includes cruise giants Princess, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean — said that its members have voluntarily opted to maintain the current suspension of cruise operations in the U.S. through the end of the year.
Members “will use the remainder of the year to prepare for the implementation of extensive measures to address COVID-19 safety” with the guidance of public health experts and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the association said.
On Friday, federal health officials issued new rules that will enable large cruise ships to start sailing again in U.S. waters, though not immediately. Among the CDC's requirements is that ship owners must test all passengers and crew at the start and end of all voyages, which are limited to seven days.
In mid-March, the CDC ordered cruise ships to stop sailing to U.S. ports after several outbreaks convinced officials that the vessels were potential cauldrons of infection. After being renewed several times the most recent order expired in October, with the new guidelines effectively bringing the no-sail order to an end.
The cruise industry has been essentially closed for business since mid-March, when it became clear that the deadly and contagious virus had already been sweeping through the U.S. unabated for weeks. The cruise association estimates that the suspension of cruises snuffed out more than $25 billion in economic activity, and 164,000 American jobs.