Despite growing frustration from the cruise industry over the most recent COVID-19 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Carnival could be ready to provide passengers with sailings starting in July.
Mobile’s own director of waterfront engagement, Joe Snowden, has booked one of the first cruises out of the cruise terminal to celebrate the Sensation’s arrival.
“I wanted to put my money where my mouth is,” he said of the decision.
Despite his own cruise being booked for July, Snowden said much of the conversation over the industry is “still up in the air” due to the CDC’s “prohibition.”
“Carnival is currently accepting reservations for July,” he said. “We are hopeful the Carnival Sensation will return to Mobile.”
While Snowden referred to a “prohibition” against sailing from U.S. ports, documents from the CDC indicate it has recently begun to move away from “no sail orders” in favor of a phased approach, which allows individual cruise companies to progress at their own pace.
Carnival is currently accepting reservations for July.
“The framework not only encourages cruise lines that are more successful at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, but provides a realistic timeline that anticipates COVID-19 continuing to be present and affecting cruise ship travel,” the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order stated.
The phases include: the establishment of lab testing of crew onboard cruise ships in U.S. waters; simulated voyages designed to test a cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19; and a certification process and a return to passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 introduction, transmission or spread among crew and passengers aboard ships, according to the order.
In a statement through Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen, the company called the phased approach in the new CDC order “largely unworkable.” The order “stands in stark contrast to the approach taken in other travel and tourism sectors as well as in the U.S. society at large,” he wrote.
“Working with the administration, the CDC and other authorities, we need to reach a workable solution — one that reflects the benefits of vaccinations, the advancements in treatments and the greater understanding of COVID-19 and one that treats the cruise industry consistent with the rest of the travel, tourism and entertainment sectors,” the statement read. “Our objective is to sail again from our U.S. homeports safely as soon as possible, always acting in the best interest of public health and safety. We look forward to a resolution that will allow sailings from our U.S. ports soon.”
While the pause on sailings will be lifted June 30, Carnival is giving future customers the flexibility on the deadlines to pay for those cruises, Gulliksen said.
To help remedy the situation, U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Mobile, has co-sponsored legislation to revoke the CDC’s current order.
“I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of the Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancement (CRUISE) Act, which would direct the CDC to come to the table and work with us to get our cruise ships back at sea,” he said in a statement. “It’s time for the CDC to remove any order or regulation preventing cruise ships from operating in the U.S. by July 4, which matches President Biden’s timeline for a return to normal. The cruise industry is especially important to our local and state economy, with countless local businesses relying on cruise traffic to stay afloat.”
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