As expected, the cruise industry is applauding the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) decision to drop its requirement for air travellers to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the U.S, effective Sunday (June 12).
The move, which Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, called “another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States,” is expected to reduce the fear of being stuck in quarantine overseas.
Which can only mean more business for the cruise industry, which is still on a road back to normal following more than two years of pandemic-related challenges and consumer hesitancy.
“This is a tremendous development that allows our guests to travel more easily and without stress throughout Europe as well as experience our Alaskan cruises that conclude in a Canadian port,” said John Padgett, president of Princess Cruises, in a statement on Friday.
Carnival Corp. added that the change is a “very positive step that will greatly stimulate and encourage much more willingness for international travel”
“In turn, that will have a highly positive impact on our cruises, as U.S. travellers will feel much more comfortable booking European cruises, knowing there are no longer burdensome test requirements,” the company said.
“The same is true for European travellers booking cruises departing from the U.S. This potential development continues to build on our momentum as a company and industry, with millions of travellers once again enjoying our cruise vacations.”
Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line, called the “exciting” news “an important step forward in the return to all global travel, including cruising.”
“The change means that U.S. travellers can pursue their love of cruising Holland America Line voyages from homeports in Europe, Canada, and Australia without concern they could be denied entry to return home,” Antorcha said in a statement.
Holland America Line, for one, completed its return to service last week with all 11 ships in its fleet back in operations.
“[The new policy] removes a barrier to travel for some guests who understandably wanted to avoid the uncertainty of return testing,” Antorcha added.
Josh Leibowitz, president of Seabourn, called the news “positive."
“This change will give travellers more confidence to make plans to travel to worldwide destinations, and more importantly, our U.S. guests will have peace of mind knowing they will be able to return home without having to undergo testing requirements,” Leibowitz stated.
“In addition, our international guests will also have less stress when they book voyages departing from the U.S.”
Ellen Bettridge, president and CEO of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, noted that “since the start of the pandemic, our U.S. customers expressed that the testing requirement for re-entry is the number-one thing holding them back from traveling internationally, and we’re thrilled that this barrier has been lifted.”
"A new phase” of the pandemic
In a news release on Friday, the CDC said the pandemic has now “shifted to a new phase” due to the widespread uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, the availability of effective therapeutics, and the accrual of high rates of vaccine and infection-induced immunity.
“Each of these measures has contributed to lower risk of severe disease and death across the United States. As a result, this requirement which was needed at an earlier stage in the pandemic may be withdrawn,” the health agency said.
At the same time, the CDC continues to recommend that those travellers boarding a flight to the U.S. get tested for current infection with a viral test “as close to the time of departure as possible” (no more than three days) and not travel if they are sick.