RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As the country makes strides in vaccinating people against COVID-19 and restrictions are starting to be eased, the cruise industry is hoping that will mean its ships will soon be able to sail again from United States ports.
Before that happens, a number of things have to fall into place.
Carnival Cruise Lines recently broke ground for a $195 million expansion to its cruise terminal in the port of Miami as it anticipates a return to sailing in a big way.
“This industry will come back stronger than ever,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Levine Cava. “The appetite for cruising is huge.”
“We cruise a lot,” said Cheryl Myers. “We retired to do it and not sit at home.”
“We’re anxious, we really are,” she said as she and her husband anticipate their next cruise booked for July of 2022.
The CDC’s “NO SAIL ORDER” last year idled the cruise industry during the pandemic.
Now, that agency is trying to help the industry get ready for a return to cruising having recently issued a “Conditional Sailing Order”.
In phase one, cruise lines must demonstrate adherence to testing, quarantine, isolation, and social distancing to protect the health of crew members.
Phase two allows mock voyages with volunteer passengers to prove the industry’s ability to mitigate COVID-19 risks.
The CDC said it will also create a laboratory team to oversee continuous coronavirus testing as part of its conditional sailing order.
The industry itself also responded.
Royal Caribbean convened a panel of experts looking at how to make ships more COVID-proof. Those 70 recommendations of the Healthy Sail Panel have been shared with other carriers.
Myers says between what the CDC and the industry are doing she would feel safe getting back aboard a cruise ship.
Royal Caribbean is also about to start its first all-vaccine cruise out of Israel where 100 percent of passengers and crew must be vaccinated in order to board.
However, sailing out of the United States is still on hold and that’s caused continued changes of plans for those who want to getaway.
“Two of our cruises have been canceled by the cruise line,” said Myers. “We have another booked for July of 2022 and we’re crossing fingers that it actually happens.”
Many travelers are concerned about refunds and cancellation policies.
As it turns out, they all vary from line to line. You can check here to see what your specific cruise line is saying.
Catherine Honeycutt of the BBB of eastern North Carolina offers additional advice.
“You need to reach out now and find out what happened to the money you paid,” she said. “Will your deposit go to a future itinerary and that sort of thing.”
Those who watch the industry say right the cost for cruises in 2022 and 2023 are at rock bottom prices, but once cruises resume they anticipate those prices will skyrocket because of supply and demand.