Cruise Industry to Set Sail In 2021, As CDC Signals Reopening At Sea

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Since the onset of COVID, the cruise industry has been one of the hospitality & tourism sectors hit the hardest, struggling to adapt to CDC guidelines, protect its workers & travelers, and survive without mass hemorrhaging. This hit bore out in the numbers; in late 2020, a CLIA report estimated that pausing cruise operations caused more than $32 billion in economic activity lost, rippling into other industries like transportation, lodging, food & beverage.

But as the heat of summer comes creeping over the horizon. As the nation continues to get vaccinated en masse, the US Centers for Disease Control signify the return of at-sea leisure travel, meaning the cruise industry could finally be getting a mask-less breath of fresh air. The CDC announced its commitment to resume cruise industry operations by mid-summer.


For simulated voyages, the CDC committed to reducing its application response time to five days vs. the proposed initially 60 days. And for at-sea travel, if a cruise ship can prove complete vaccinations for 95 percent of passengers and 98 percent of the crew, the vessel can skip simulated voyages and head right out to the open ocean.

Before the CDC announced these updates, earlier in April, Carnival CEO, Arnold Donald, interviewed live on Bloomberg in response to earlier CDC guideline adjustments. Even with stricter recommendations from the CDC, Donald showed optimism in Carnival’s chances of getting back to sea by mid-summer.

A mid-summer return for cruise operations could be only the beginning of a revitalization for Carnival and the industry; in January of 2021, Carnival announced its advanced booking numbers for 2022 had already surpassed its 2019 numbers. In 2019, the cruise industry was on the rise, growing by nearly $3 billion in US economic impact. If bookings continue to return at an elevated pace in 2022, even higher than in 2019, then that optimism may be well rewarded.

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