Cruise specialists criticise ‘unfair’ US CDC advice

Cruise specialists say the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to advise people to avoid cruise sailings is “a knee-jerk reaction” and “unfair”.

The CDC upgraded its risk status for cruising from level 3 to 4 on December 30 amid rising Covid-19 case numbers on ships.

As of Wednesday evening, 97 vessels were being monitored or had been investigated by the CDC. A further 13 ships currently carrying just crew were not under investigation.

To trigger a CDC investigation, 0.1% of passengers or one crew member on a scheduled revenue sailing must test positive.

Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises (pictured), MSC Cruises, Marella Cruises and Royal Caribbean International have altered or cancelled itineraries due to Covid issues.

Clia said it was “disappointed” with the “perplexing” decision to “single out the cruise industry”.

Cruise agents echoed the association’s stance.

Cruise Nation owner Phil Evans said his agency had received “a hell of a lot of calls” from customers wanting to move bookings.

“It’s really unfair,” he said. “The numbers are stupidly small. There’s a lot of scaremongering.”

Phil Nuttall, owner of the Travel Village Group, said the CDC’s decision had caused “widespread panic” and put “doubt in people’s minds” about onboard safety. He felt the cruise sector had been made a “scapegoat” via a “knee-jerk reaction”.

Other agents reported that trading remained largely unaffected.

Alison Earnshaw, managing director of Cruise118 parent World Travel Holdings, Hays Travel head of cruise Catriona Parsons and Barrhead Travel president Jacqueline Dobson all reported strong demand.

Dobson described the news as “disappointing” but stressed: “Wave offers are helping to secure future bookings.”

Earnshaw said that despite “a few comments” from worried customers, there had been “some pick-up post‑Christmas” and sales were “moving in the right direction”.

Parsons added: “We have not experienced concerned callers citing the CDC guidelines or outbreaks on ships. Bookings are still strong and customers are continuing to book cruises right through to 2024.”

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