As the world continues to address challenges regarding COVID-19, the top priority for the entire cruise community—including cruise lines, travel agents, ports, destinations, suppliers and beyond—continues to be the health and safety of passengers, crew and the communities in the places we visit. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the leading voice of the global cruise community, has developed the enclosed resources to help our members and partners navigate these unchartered waters together, with one voice.
Are cruise ships the source of COVID-19?
Cruising is neither the source nor the cause of COVID-19. In fact, with over 20 million cases confirmed worldwide, cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships represent a fraction of a fraction of a percent of confirmed cases around the world.
Like restaurants, hotels, movie theaters and the like, COVID-19 can spread in any setting where people come together to socialize and enjoy shared experiences. It also spreads in other transportation and hospitality sectors where people have close contact with others who are infected, such as airlines, subways and trains, buses and ride share vehicles.
However, cruise ships do differ from other sectors and industries in ways that contribute to the misperception perpetuated in the media that the incidence of COVID-19 is higher than other sectors and industries. All CLIA ocean-going cruise lines (which represents 95% of global cruise ship capacity) must have credentialed doctors and nurses onboard who are required to provide health declarations detailing illnesses of individuals onboard to port authorities around the globe prior to a ship’s entry. The majority of this information is available to the public. Neither airlines, hotels, nor any other travel and tourism sector is required to report the same information.
How do CLIA member cruise lines promote public health?
Interestingly, CLIA ocean-going cruise ships are the only form of travel or passenger transportation that must be medically equipped to care for passengers or crew in the event of illness. As a condition of membership within CLIA, ocean-going cruise lines are required to fit their ships with medical facilities that meet the standards set forth by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), which require that doctors and medical personnel be available onboard 24/7. Additionally, cruise ships must have an examination room, an intensive care room and equipment for processing labs, monitoring vital signs and administering medications.
How do CLIA cruise lines keep cruise ships clean and sanitary?
Keeping cruise ships clean and sanitary is a top priority for CLIA member cruise lines. Cruise ship crews clean and sanitize surfaces known for transmitting germs, multiple times throughout the day, such as handrails, door handles and faucets. At the end of a voyage and before a new one begins, ships are cleaned completely prior to the arrival of new passengers. CLIA cruise lines also help to educate cruise passengers on personal health and safety practices. Cruise passengers are reminded to wash their hands regularly and hand sanitizers are readily available in public locations. While this longstanding cruise line practice may sound minor, COVID-19 has reaffirmed the critical importance of hand hygiene to protecting public health.
Additionally, the industry has a longstanding collaboration with the CDC and The Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) to make sure ships meet strict sanitation guidelines. As part of the program, cruise ship crews are trained in sanitation and health practices and ships undergo unannounced inspections twice a year, with scores made available to the public. No other travel and tourism or entertainment industry has this type of federal program or oversight.
What is the economic impact of the suspension of cruise operations?
Cruise activity supports over 1.17 million jobs across a wide cross-section of industries and sectors, from ground and air transportation to food and beverage, lodging, manufacturing, hotels, professional services and a broad range of suppliers and service providers throughout the world. Unfortunately, the impacts of COVID-19 are being felt across this vast community, with up to 2,500 jobs lost each day that cruises are not operating. When the time is right for cruise operations to safely resume, cruising will be an important contributor to fueling the global economic and societal recovery.
Below are some additional facts about the economic impact of the cruise industry and the impact of the ongoing suspension of passenger operations.
Worldwide Economic Impact:
- The cruise industry generates over $150 billion USD in worldwide economic activity and supports nearly 2 million jobs.
- Every 1% drop in cruising that occurs worldwide results in up to 9,100 lost jobs.
- Each day of the suspension results in the loss of up to 2,500 jobs worldwide.
- From mid-March, when the suspension of cruise operations began, through the end of September, the worldwide impact will be a loss of $50 billion USD in economic activity, 334,000 jobs and $15 billion USD in wages.
- The cruise industry generates over $53 billion USD in economic activity in the U.S. and supports 421,000 American jobs.
- Every 30 cruisers from U.S. ports support one American job.
- Each day of the suspension of cruise operations in the U.S. results in a total loss of approximately $110 million in economic activity and up to 800 American jobs.
- From mid-March, when the suspension began, through the end of September, we estimate that the suspension of cruise passenger operations will result in a total loss of 163,700 direct and indirect American jobs and $8.6 billion in total wages
Is CLIA leading an effort to establish industry-wide protocols for ocean-going members to resume operations?
CLIA is working to establish an industry-wide COVID-19 policy for its ocean-going cruise line members. Our efforts are being informed by the very detailed work being performed by the ocean-going lines, in which CLIA is actively engaged. Once agreed upon by CLIA ocean-going cruise line members, the policy will be added to CLIA’s compendium of policies required of all CLIA ocean-going cruise line members.
What are the other measures that will be included in the global policy?
The additional measures, which will encompass a door-to-door approach covering the guest’s entire cruise experience, from booking through disembarkation, are being finalized now and will be announced in the coming weeks. They will apply globally with some variance for very small ships (less than 250 person capacity) or expedition vessels. Although I’m not able to provide you with a comprehensive list, examples include:
- Booking procedures and risk disclosures
- Staggered guest arrivals and departures
- Health screening including temperature checks for anyone boarding
- Onboard testing capability
- Augmentation of medical facilities and staff
- Capacity management/social distancing
- Dining restrictions
- Use of contactless technology
- Contact tracing
Will the industry’s enhanced protocols be implemented on a permanent basis?
CLIA and its cruise line members will continually evolve the response measures as conditions warrant. The prevention, mitigation and response measures implemented by cruise lines as passenger services gradually resume will be continuously evaluated and adjusted against the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key considerations include the availability of new prevention and mitigation measures, such as testing, treatments and, ultimately, the introduction of an effective vaccine.
What plans are in place to make sure that ports around the world will accept cruise ships known or thought to be carrying COVID-19 positive persons onboard?
CLIA and our oceangoing cruise line members continue to actively engage with our partners at the local, national and international levels to facilitate alignment as we work toward the gradual resumption of cruise operations. The combination of European guidance, national regulatory measures, cruise line protocols and port and terminal protocols are designed to promote the highest priority of putting people first while taking into account the need for carefully crafted response plans.
Why has cruising returned in Asia and Europe but not North America?
Cruises are resuming in other markets in a gradual, phased-in manner, since the virus is at different stages in different parts of the world. At least in some regions, we have seen the first cruises are shorter voyages with more limited itineraries. Cruise lines remain actively engaged with our partners at the local, national and international levels to facilitate alignment and inform cruise industry protocols as they advance through the planning process.
When did CLIA cruise lines first suspend passenger operations due to COVID-19?
CLIA cruise lines responded swiftly to this unprecedented global crisis based on the information that was available, and under the guidance of prevailing health authorities. This culminated in the voluntary suspension of worldwide cruise passenger operations in mid-March, immediately following the World Health Organization’s pandemic declaration.
When will passenger operations resume?
CLIA ocean-going member cruise lines will sail again when the time is right, and that timing will be based on a number of factors, including, most importantly, input from scientists and medical experts. Given the significant economic contributions of the cruise industry to global economies, CLIA member cruise lines look forward to contributing to the global economic and societal recoveries, in addition to welcoming valued guests back onboard and introducing them to their next adventures.
Will the cruise industry recover?
Our colleagues across the cruise industry, and the communities we serve, are facing a challenge that is unprecedented in scale. The global cruise industry supports over 1.17 million jobs around the world, including travel agents, suppliers, and service providers across a wide spectrum of industries and sectors. Unfortunately, every day of the suspension results in thousands of those jobs lost. Still, people love to cruise, and that is part of what makes the cruise industry so resilient in the face of adversity. We are confident that people will return to the seas when the time is right, just as they will return to restaurants, bars, movie theaters and the like. Despite current challenges, the cruise community will emerge from this global crisis stronger and even better than before.