U.S. ports are open to returning ships and passengers are able to disembark, the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has confirmed.
The news was officially confirmed by a National Interest Exemption (Exemption) issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on March 13th.
The exception applies to passengers who are U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and foreign diplomats. Notably, non-U.S. citizens will also be able to fly to their home countries (pending flight availability).
Following this, CLIA and FCCA have requested that all ports in the Caribbean, South America and other areas keep their ports open to cruise ships sailing on itineraries related to U.S. ports so passengers can return home.
1.2 million passengers impacted
Last Friday, CLIA ocean-going cruise line members announced they were voluntarily and temporarily suspending ship operations related to U.S. ports for 30 days as U.S. health officials try and halt the spread of COVID-19.
Approximately 40 ships and 90,000 passengers were at sea at the date and time of the voluntary and temporary suspension.
Of those 40 ships, 29 were in the midst of their itineraries, and 11 had departed that evening.
On Monday (March 16th), 11 of these 40 ships completed their sailings; the remaining have various dates of return out to March 30th.
Over the 30-day period, approximately 500 cruises and 1.2 million passengers will be impacted by suspended itineraries.
Guests who are booked on cruise itineraries impacted by the decision are encouraged to contact their travel advisors or reach out to their cruise lines directly.
The cruise industry is a “vital artery for the U.S. economy,” supporting more than 421,000 American jobs, with every 30 cruisers supporting one U.S. job, and annually contributes nearly $53 billion (USD) to the U.S. economy, according to a 2018 BREA/CLIA economic impact study.
The impact on the U.S. economy over 30 days will be a loss of $1 billion USD (in direct spending), $14 million USD in wages, and 6,500 U.S. jobs, CLIA states.
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