Public health officials have given yachts a green light to begin phased reopening in the US after months of sea bans amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But it may take several months before tourists start sailing again at sea out of US ports.
Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would not renew a ban completely shutting down the tourism industry for months. As a result, the ban on sailings, therefore, expired on 31 October and the CDC issued a conditional sails ban, outlining the requirements that tourist routes must meet to resume operation.
However, on Tuesday, the International Yacht Association, the main trade group representing the travel industry, announced that its members had voluntarily suspended their US operations for the rest of the time. of year. This includes cruise lines owned by Carnival Corp., CCL,
Royal Caribbean Group RCL,
and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings NCLH,
The tourism industry has attracted special scrutiny – especially compared to other sectors of the tourism industry – during the coronavirus pandemic. When coronavirus infections started to skyrocket earlier this year, outbreaks on cruise ships caught the media’s attention. In particular, more than 700 passengers and crew tested positive for COVID-19 on a Diamond Princess owned by Carnival Corp in March.
Meanwhile, tourism routes have slowly re-started operations in Europe and Southeast Asia, although minor outbreaks of COVID-19 have occurred on a number of ships despite measures in place. widespread prevention. In October, a trip on a Costa Cruises trip departing Genoa, Italy, was cut short after eight people tested positive.
Here’s what travelers planning a yacht vacation for next year need to know about the industry’s reopening:
It may be months before travel starts out of the US again
A lot of work has to be done by yacht operators to get CDC’s consent to start sailing back to US ports. To begin with, they must develop their own laboratory testing capabilities aboard their ships so that crews and passengers can be tested for coronaviruses.
They then need to run simulation trips designed to test the potential for virus mitigation during sailing. These simulated trips may be open to the public, although it’s unclear what they will entail or how long they will last. The CDC will only allow adult participants without any pre-existing conditions that put them at risk of complications when they contract with COVID-19. Once all is done, cruise lines will need to submit a report to CDC to be certified to sail again.
And that’s just the process the CDC is demanding – no matter how much effort it takes for travel agencies to get their crew back onto their ships and retrain them, says Stewart Chiron, a travel specialist. The Cruise’s operating schedule says Website Guy.
Travel carrier employees live all over the world and some shipping lines have begun taking steps to bring their staff back to the US to resume operations before the CDC issued a new order. “Basically, my understanding is that they will quarantine the crew for 14 days on shore and then 14 days on board,” Chiron said. “It’s been a month.”
During that time, yacht operators may work with other elements of their COVID-19 related plans, but January and February tourists may be disappointed.
“The big question now is how long will it take to implement the necessary protocols to meet the CDC requirements,” said Chris Gray Faust, editor of the travel website Cruise Critic. “Many of these requirements have been proposed by the industry itself, but it is not known exactly how long it will take to actually execute.”
Presidential elections could also play a role in the industry’s likely reopening. Several reports have suggested that the Trump administration passed the CDC in extending the ban on sailing October 31 – and House Democrats are reportedly investigating the matter. Chiron said a Biden administration, if the former vice president is elected, could seek to slow the industry’s reopening, depending on its approach to the pandemic.
Carnival Corp. said each of their individual cruise lines will announce plans to reopen on their website. Among Carnival’s brands are Carnival Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, Holland American and Princess Cruises. “Whenever we restart our yacht operations in the US, we certainly look forward to welcoming our guests aboard,” said Arnold Doland, CEO of Carnival in a statement. simultaneously announcing plans to suspend operations until at least 2021.
(Royal Caribbean and Norway did not respond to a request for comment.)
Some trips may be canceled even after cruise lines resume operations
One limitation the CDC is applying is that cruises, once authorized, can take no more than seven days. And the public health agency has the right to shorten (or extend) that time frame in the future.
That short timeframe may not rule out popular itineraries, such as cruises to the Bahamas or the Western Caribbean. But it probably means some rides won’t happen. Trips on the Panama Canal, for example, would not be possible. Likewise, trips from California to Hawaii and Alaska probably won’t fit in that timeframe, Chiron said.
Cruise holidays will include many COVID-19 tests
CDC itself requires passengers and crew to be checked on boarding date and return date. Passengers must also be checked and received the results before boarding the train.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, where testing is concerned. If the tours make a call, the passenger will be required by those countries to be checked before getting off the train. “During the seven-day journey with three port stops, passengers will have to check six times,” said Chiron.
Additionally, if someone on board is suspected of having a COVID, any close contact should be checked. All told, Chiron suggested that some travelers might find it too inconvenient to experiment extensively.
The many perks and amenities of a yacht vacation can be reduced
Experts say the flying experience may not be as carefree as it once was while the pandemic continues. “We can expect to see a lot of things we also see on land,” Gray Faust said. This may include limiting power and wearing a mask in other areas. Buffet parties are likely to go in the opposite direction – although satisfying eating can happen all around, with gloved staff serving food instead.
However, the biggest change is likely to happen to operations taking place on board. “Carriers are focusing on the ability to create their own types of ‘bubbles’ with pre-cruise COVID testing, as well as ship-sponsored shore cruises, requiring guests to use services. protection is set up by the travel agency, “Gray Faust said, describing what the operators have done in Europe.
So instead of being able to plan your own activities when visiting a port, tourists will have to book a pre-designed cruise tour directly from the cruise line.
In fact, travel agencies will likely be very strict about what passengers can and cannot do while at a port of visit where those who violate the rules may be denied re-entry, Association International travel said.
The other factor here is whether the Caribbean countries will allow the return of cruise ships. At least one yacht route has resumed flights out of Barbados, but the area has seen no activity since the pandemic began. While the yacht industry is critical to many of these countries’ economies, public health risks can result in some states deciding not to allow visitors.
If you cancel, the carrier may give you a voucher worth more than your original trip
Gray Faust says each line processes refunds, credit and rebooking differently. “There is no industry policy for what is offered to guests who choose to cancel on their own terms,” she said.
Most cruise lines have relaxed their policies since the pandemic started to retain customers.
However, if the carrier cancels your trip, you may get a refund. However, in most cases, the operator will automatically give you a future travel credit instead, and you’ll need to actively request a refund.
But it can be beneficial to wait. Some travel agencies have offered travel credits in the future that are worth more than the amount paid by the passenger, which could be beneficial for those wishing to succeed, travel experts say. plan a trip in the more distant future.