As more cruise lines inch closer to meeting the strict requirements of the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order, one cruise industry veteran suggests they should already be renegotiating the terms.
In an interview reported in Cruise Week, former Carnival Cruise Line CEO Bob Dickinson said, “if I were operating a cruise line today, I would not be talking to the CDC about wearing masks on the cruise ship.
“Instead, the message would be about making sure everybody has had their second vaccine shot.”
While cruise lines have remained positive about delivering a fully-enjoyable cruise experience for masked guests – and Open Jaw has reported that cruise ships sailing last year in Europe with masking requirements in place received favourable guest feedback – cruise fan groups online and commentators in the media continue to raise questions whether cruising will ‘truly’ return while guests are required to mask up.
Dickinson acknowledged the need for masks – for now. “Of course, until there’s sufficient vaccine in the country, the cruise lines will have to insist on masks.
“But once there’s sufficient vaccine, and herd immunity is established, then, as long as there’s a requirement that guests be vaccinated, there will be no need for masks.”
He acknowledged herd immunity might not be achieved overnight or with just one round of vaccinations. Current reports indicate that COVID vaccines could also become annual requirements, with new formulations in subsequent years targeting new or different strains of the virus, just as flu shots do now.
The challenge for cruise lines is that current return-to-sail conditions anticipate guests being masked in public spaces, but do not address vaccination at all. That could slow a full return to cruising.
Cruise Week notes how slowly the wheels of consultation and regulatory change move at the CDC: “It would take months to undo that requirement even if masks are no longer needed once you are vaccinated.”
In his interview, Dickinson agreed. “If I were starting a cruise line I would start to plant the seed now with the CDC that vaccinating will make masks irrelevant or it’s going to be an even slower process [for returning].
“At the very least there should be a hybrid state with the cruise companies saying, ‘OK, until we get a certain level of vaccines in the country, we’ll insist on masks.”