The recently formed Global Cruise Activist Network has launched a ‘Rethink Cruise Tourism‘ campaign calling for a revamp of the cruise ship industry before sailings resume post-COVID.
In a virtual press conference on Wednesday, the group cited the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Travel Notice recommending people avoid travel on cruise ships because the risk of contracting COVID-19 is “very high”.
On 14 March, the CDC issued a 30-day ‘No Sail Order’ for cruise ships. This was repeatedly extended until 30 Oct., when it was replaced by a ‘Framework for Conditional Sailing Order‘, which allows for a phased resumption of cruise ship passenger operations based on strict new health and safety protocols.
However, the voyage did not go smoothly for the first cruise ship to operate a Caribbean route following the lifting of the No Sail Order. The SeaDream 1, owned by Norway’s Sea Dream Yacht Club, departed Barbados on 7 Nov. and reported a case of COVID-19 on board a few days later, forcing the ship to return to port. Several other passengers subsequently tested positive.
GCAN members said they agreed with the CDC’s contention that “cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is very challenging”, and want this to act as a wake-up for the cruise industry to reform how it operates its business.
Jamie Barnett, president of the Los Angeles-based International Cruise Victims Association, which is part of the network, said her association and CGAN had submitted comments to the CDC opposing the lifting of the No Sail Order.
“We were devastated when they were overruled by the administration. In fact, we’re hoping that they’ll reconsider it. Not to get too political, but a new administration in the United States may change things. We have some legislatives support, both in the House and in the Senate right now, and so hopefully, we’ll be able to build on that and science will win out,” Barnett said.
James Walker of Cruise Law News said the cruise lines “have basically admitted that they’ve realised they’re incapable of sailing safely during a pandemic, due to the fact that they keep on advertising and selling cruises and marketing cruises as being safe, but in reality they’re all kicking the can down the road, I believe, in the hopes that a vaccine will come along and they can find a way of marketing the cruises with a vaccine.
“I think they realise it’s unsafe and reckless to sail during a deadly pandemic, and I think we’ll probably see a change with the CDC with the new administration.”
Call for ‘more responsible’ cruise tourism
The group is urging policymakers and cruise companies to create a “more responsible” cruise tourism industry, that takes social and environmental aspects into consideration. GCAN in September published its ‘Principles for Responsible Tourism‘ to this effect.
The group is also calling on customers to make informed decisions about taking cruises. Linda Clark, of Cruise Port Referendum Cayman which opposed the creation of a cruise dock in George Town, said, “It’s time to rethink cruise tourism. Before rebooking a cruise, before investing money, before taking a cruise, before restarting cruise ships, please rethink your plan.”
She said that even when COVID-19 was an obvious threat, cruise ship companies “knowingly and wilfully kept sailing, despite the risks. Cruise lines made a choice to prioritise profits over public health. It was terrifying for our small Cayman community when the first confirmed case of COVID was brought by a passenger off the Costa Luminosa, resulting in our largest hospital closing completely for two weeks to quarantine staff.
“The passenger, very sadly, later died in Cayman. Costa Luminosa continued to sail.”
The Cayman Islands government has stated that cruise ships will not be allowed to visit the Cayman Islands until at least the end of 2020.
Jane da Mosto, of Italian NGO We Are Here Venice, added, “We expect the cruise ship industry to use this pause in operations to review their business practices in terms of social, environmental, as well as economic performance. This will require a radical transformation of their business model and corporate cultures to find fresh opportunities. The clever ones will surely manage.”
Maria Poulos, of Sydney, Australia’s Save the Bay Coalition, said the group is calling on cruise lines to delay their return to operations until they publish detailed plans “with explicit commitments, benchmarks and timelines that commit companies to implementing specific levels of performance and compliance over time.”
No cruises this year
Last month, most major cruise companies announced they were suspending or cancelling all cruises until the end of 2020.
In a 2 Nov. statement issued by the Cruise Lines International Association, which includes Carnival Cruise Lines, MSC, Disney, Royal Caribbean and other cruise companies that visit Cayman, CLIA said its members would maintain their ongoing voluntary suspension of cruise operation in the US until 31 Dec.
The association said it would use “the remainder of the year to prepare for the implementation of extensive measures to address COVID-19 safety” with the guidance of public health experts and the CDC.
CLIA president and CEO Kelly Craighead said in the statement, “…we expect much of the [CDC’s] Healthy Sail Panel’s recommendations, which were adopted by CLIA’s Global Board of Directors earlier this month, have been considered and will serve as an important foundation. The cruise industry and the CDC have a long track record of working together in the interest of public health, and we look forward to continuing to build upon this legacy to support the resumption of cruising from U.S. ports.
“With enhanced measures in place, and with the continued guidance of leading experts in health and science as well as the CDC, we are confident that a resumption of cruising in the U.S. is possible to support the economic recovery while maintaining a focus on effective and science-based measures to protect public health.”