Cruise executives and Miami officials implored the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US to allow the cruise industry to return to service, with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) CEO Frank Del Rio saying "enough is enough."
"The cruise industry is close to devastation," Del Rio said, adding the market cap of the three largest cruise companies had dropped by nearly US$50 billion. "We should not take for granted that because we're here today we will always be here. We've got to get back to work. And all we're asking for is the opportunity to demonstrate that we take this very seriously."
The pause in cruising, Del Rio said, is "affecting the lives of thousands of employees and their families and their children. Yet we see airlines flying. I want someone to tell me how is it possible Covid-19 transmission doesn't occur on an airplane when you're sitting four inches away from someone in a middle seat, yet it happens on a ship that is nearly 200,000 tonnes. It is unconscionable what's happened to the cruise industry. We've been quiet too long."
He added that it is time the public and government officials "know that we are confident in our protocols and confident we can operate safely in this Covid 19 world".
"It's been more than six months," he said. "We learned a lot – we as an industry, we as a society – about how to live alongside Covid. We're making great progress."
Del Rio said the Healthy Sail Panel that NCLH and Royal Caribbean Group partnered to form – which includes former US secretaries of Health and Human Services, the Food & Drug Administration and the CDC – will submit the results of its work in the next 10 days.
"We believe our protocols are the most robust in the industry," he said. "We are so happy to see MSC and Aida and Costa cruise in Europe. It proves it can be done. I am 100% certain our protocols are second to none and it will be safe to cruise from America."
Rick Sasso, chairman of MSC Cruises USA, talked about the MSC relaunch, saying that "our experience to date shows that cruising can be done safely, the protocols we put in place for our first cruses in Europe are working effectively."
He added that MSC's relaunch was achieved in "close collaboration" with European authorities and that the line had gone "above and beyond" the required standards.
"We are ready to work with authorities in the US directly to plan for a safe and successful start of cruising in the US," Sasso said.
Miami Dade County commissioner Rebeca Sosa said that the CDC was being "unfair," that it was "very hard to understand" why it took so long to give the industry feedback and isn't working more closely with the cruise lines the way European regulators have.
Sosa said that the county would be writing to the CDC as well as to Florida's US senators to pressure the CDC to respond more quickly to the cruise lines this time around.
"We need the jobs," she said.
This article was first published in Travel Weekly.