Covid-19 vaccines are not a “silver bullet” for the cruise industry, as it seeks to resume sailings amid the pandemic.
Health and safety measures such as tests, masks and social distancing will still be important on cruise ships as the sector slowly resumes operations around the world, said Kelly Craighead, president and chief executive of Cruise Lines International Association (Clia).
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast about the timescale for voyages to resume, she said: “The promise of the vaccine is very exciting but I think that in itself will be a long process.
“There is not a silver bullet in this instance.
“We feel comfortable and confident in the medical protocols that have been advised by outside medical and health experts.
“We’ll continue to rely on those sets of protocols even as the vaccine is rolled out.”
She said the limited resumption of cruising by some cruise lines in Europe and Asia last summer demonstrated the importance of the health protocols and she expects them to remain during the deployment of vaccination programmes.
“As our own Andy Harmer [Clia UK and Ireland director] frequently says, the return to cruising is not going to be the flipping of a light switch,” she said.
“This is a little bit like a dimmer and we’re going to continue to grow and build and hopefully return to that great pattern of growth that we were on.
“It is going to be a phased approach.
“Because we’ve adopted this really robust stringent set of measures that have been informed by experts, and have been proven effective this summer in Europe and in Asia, we remain hopeful.”
She said there are no deadlines about moving away from protocols and the cruise lines will continue to work with local authorities and health bodies about guidance for each destination.
Craighead was speaking on the webcast from Washington DC, ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden as president.
She said partnerships with governments are critical and the experience of operating cruises in Europe last summer offered a roadmap out of the current situation.
“There is a little bit of a silver lining in the pause in operations because it really has enabled the industry to come out as successfully as they were able to do, executing against protocols this summer that, when they were enforced, proved effective.
“You can see a confluence of when all these things come together – the adherence to protocols across the entire supply chain of travel, the rollout and the availability of vaccines, the ability to better understand what we’re dealing with and how to mitigate against it – it is going to be a really successful 2021.”