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International Cruises Start Sailing Again, But Not Yet For Americans

At the beginning of the global pandemic, news stories often covered the multiple cruise ships around the world that were stuck in quarantine either in-port or out at sea. A few weeks later, every major cruise line in the world canceled their sailings.

More than six months later, the cruise industry is slowly beginning to reopen as multiple cruise lines in Europe and Asia are offering new cruises. With over six million cases, it will still be some time before cruising returns to North America and the United States.

In a recent interview, Stewart Chrion, also known as The Cruise Guy, explained how the lack of knowledge regarding the virus and a lack of leadership in accepting responsibility in addressing it has hindered reopening in key regions.

“Earlier this year, we didn't know much about Coronavirus. Unfortunately, a lot of communities around the U.S. were experiencing communal outbreaks and either didn't know it or were deflecting responsibility for it. People that have taken a cruise are confident that their safety is paramount. The early news reports were conflicted or contradictory. What we know now, six months later, will ensure people continue to vacation in the safest environments possible,” he said.

While many parts of the world are returning to normal, the cruise industry won’t be return to its normal heights, where nearly 13 million cruise passengers embark from annually, until dramatic improvements in COVID-19 transmission rates are seen.

“At the moment, the cruise industry is essentially still shut-down but there is hope to restart before the end of 2020. There are a few cruise lines that have recently restarted with only a handful of ships in Europe but the major cruise lines and US passengers, are still side-lined,” Chiron continued.

While some ports are hesitant to welcome back cruise passengers, others have restricted where cruise passengers can go once they disembark.

In Italy, new restrictions require cruise passengers to take cruise line tours if they wish to disembark the ship. However, moves like this may not suffice in the long-run.

“Reduced port calls or stops solely at cruise lines' private islands and beaches in the Bahamas and Caribbean might be OK to get sailing again in the very short term but not much longer,” Chiron notes. “Uncooperative ports may have their countries by-passed altogether while other ports may be visited multiple times or have overnights.”

Going forward, some cruise lines may require rapid testing of passengers before embarking alongside more rigorous cleaning procedures and processes.

In late August, Royal Caribbean Group was looking at the feasibility of using rapid testing for its lines, which include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara, and Silversea.

MSC has already unveiled a rapid-swab test as part of the health and safety embarkation requirements, along with a secondary, more precise, molecular RT-PCR test for those guests coming from high-risk areas.

Norwegian Cruise Lines has also expressed interest in requiring rapid testing for all guests before boarding.

Even with new safety precautions and procedures in place, the return of cruising to North America and other regions of the world still remains uncertain.

During an August 26 meeting, Canaveral Port Authority CEO Capt. John Murray stated that he doesn’t see cruises returning to Florida port until January but remains hopeful.

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