With new coronavirus clusters sprouting aboard ships overseas, the US cruise industry is extending its suspension of operations through October 2020. The Cruise Lines International Association, which represents more than 50 companies and 95 percent of ocean-going cruise capacity, said Wednesday that if conditions in the US change, it would consider allowing short, modified sailings.

A no-sail order for US waters initially issued by the Centers for Disease Control in March has been extended through Sept. 30. CLIA has extended its travel suspension twice.

As we reported earlier this week, Hurtigruten cruise line halted all trips and apologized Monday conceding that “it failed to follow its own guidelines” after it became known that foreign crew were not quarantined before the ship sailed, and a coronavirus outbreak infected over 40 people on board the MS Roald Amundsen. Health authorities now reportedly fear the ship may have spread the virus to dozens of towns and villages along the west coast of Norway. Positive coronavirus tests were also reported this week on cruise ships in Italy and Tahiti.

The risk of infection aboard a cruise ship is elevated because of the close quarters. Between March and July, there were 2,973 reported cases of COVID-19 or COVID-like illnesses about ships in US waters, according to the CDC. As of July 10, there were still 14,702 crew members aboard 67 ships.

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line, both based in Florida, are working together with a panel of health experts to develop plans for preventing and treating COVID-19 at sea. Details are expected later this month. Other cruise lines are developing their own safety protocols.

The industry has been devastated by the pandemic. Each day that ships remain inactive costs US $110 million in economic activity, according to CLIA. States that rely on the cruise industry, like Florida, Texas and Alaska, have been hit particularly hard.

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Source: Travel Industry Today

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