The pace of activity towards a restart of US cruising has “heated up” recently, according to Royal Caribbean Group boss Richard Fain.
He was speaking in the latest of a series of video messages to the trade against a backdrop of growing lobbying against US health authorities continuing to prevent cruise lines from restarting from American ports, with hopes of a July resumption.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is coming under increasing pressure from politicians in Florida and Alaska that rely on the cruise industry for income and jobs.
Fain, chief executive of Royal Caribbean Group, reiterated efforts to get the cruise sector safely “back on its feet”.
He added: “We all share a common goal, a return to a healthy cruise vacation for all Americans.”
He pointed to the rollout of vaccines, with at least 45% of Americans receiving at least their first dose, resulting in more than three quarters of people aged over 65 now having protection.
“Three million shots a day are being administered. OMG, the United States is one of the leaders in vaccinating our citizens and that transforms the situation,” Fain said.
Just as important is the experience the company is gaining through the resumption of operations in other parts of the world – carrying more than 100,000 passengers one more than 150 cruises, with only ten positive cases of Covid-19.
“Each of those ten cases has been handled smoothly with no outbreaks or disruptions to all the other guests or the local communities,” Fain added.
“We no longer have to theorise, to make conjections about what might possibly happen.”
The third key point is that knowledge of the disease and how to contain it has grown.
“In particular extensive testing is now available. Testing is the key to catching the virus early and preventing the spread. In addition, contact tracing on board ships can be done with a precision undreamed of on land,” he said.
This combination enables the company to reduce the risk on board a ship to below that on land, Fain claimed.
People are also frustrated, suffering from the “pain and misery” caused by all the lockdowns.
But at the same time, public health officials are concerned about a third surge and rightly want to take steps to limit that risk.
Addressing “new and tougher” restrictions imposed last week by the CDC on cruising from US ports, while indicating that a restart could be possible as early as July, Fain said: “We are eager to work with them towards that goal.”
He added: “The constructive dialogue with public health officials has been very positive. More and more countries are moving forward with cruises.
“The UK announced new rules for the restart of cruising along with comparable rules for air travel.
“There are signs we are approaching the end. We all want the same thing – safe and healthy cruising. That’s our hope and it is the sincere hope of the CDC and other public officials around the world and around our country.
“My fondest desire is that we can follow president Biden’s target of July 4 as a major reopening milestone. The evidence is that we can do it. Now is our opportunity to work together towards that common goal.”
He revealed “open dialogue” with health officials from 27 countries around the world.
“The result has been a rapid reopening of cruise travel in most of the areas we sail to with extensive protections to make sure we are taking care of everyone’s health.
“We look forward to such a constructive dialogue with the CDC and others to make that success ever broader.
“The CDC has talked of a July start and we are working towards doing so.”
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