March 17 ------ The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, said that its members will be temporarily suspending cruise ship operations from and to U.S. ports of call for 30 days as public health officials and the U.S. Government continue to address COVID-19. “CLIA cruise line members are voluntarily and temporarily suspending operations from the U.S. as we work to address this public health crisis,” said Kelly Craighead, President and CEO, CLIA. “This has been a challenging time, but we hope that this decision will enable us to focus on the future and a return to normal as soon as possible.” The temporary suspension took effect on March 14, 2020.
The announcement was preceded by individual decisions of several cruise lines to suspend their global operations in order to combat the impact of the outbreak on their respective operations, including Princess Cruises. Royal Caribbean said on Sunday, March 14, that it decided to suspend the sailings of its fleet globally at midnight. “We will conclude all current sailings as scheduled and assist our guests with their safe return home. As with our announcement yesterday regarding U.S. sailings, we expect to return to service on April 11, 2020,” the company said. Carnival Corporation & plc announced that four additional North American cruise line brands will take a voluntary month-long pause, suspending new cruise voyages. These include Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard North America, Holland America Line, and Seabourn.
CLIA added that cruise liners are now focused on the safe and smooth return of those currently at sea onboard ships that will be affected by this decision. Approximately 40 ships and 90,000 passengers were at sea at the effective date and time of the voluntary and temporary suspension, according to CLIA. Of those 40 ships, 29 were in the midst of their itineraries, and 11 had departed that evening. On March 16, 11 of these 40 ships will complete their sailings; the remaining have various dates of return out to March 30. Over the 30-day period, CLIA estimates that approximately 500 cruises and 1.2 million passengers will be impacted by suspended itineraries.
The Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and CLIA said that U.S. ports would remain open to returning cruise ships, adding that passengers are able to disembark and fly home as confirmed by a National Interest Exemption issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 13, 2020.
This includes passengers who are U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and foreign diplomats. Non-U.S. citizens will be able to fly home to their home countries. “As a result of this Exemption, CLIA and FCCA have requested that all ports in the Caribbean, South America and other areas keep their ports open to cruise ships sailing on itineraries related to U.S. ports to allow passengers to return as soon as possible to their homes,” CLIA noted. “We do not take this decision lightly, and we want the traveling public to know in no uncertain terms the commitment of this industry to putting people first,” said Adam Goldstein, CLIA Global Chairman. “During this time, we will continue to work with the CDC and others to prepare for resumption of sailings when it is appropriate. We know the travel industry is a huge economic engine for the United States and when our ships once again sail, our industry will be a significant contributor to fueling the economic recovery.”
CLIA’s data shows that the cruise industry supports over 421,000 American jobs, and annually contributes nearly USD 53 billion to the U.S. economy. The association estimates that the direct impact on the U.S. economy over 30 days will be a loss of USD 1 billion (in direct spending), USD 14 million in wages, and 6,500 U.S. jobs. The total economic impact on the United States is estimated at USD 2.3 billion in spending, USD 800 million in wages, and 15,500 jobs.