As CEO and port director of the fourth most popular cruise port in North America and the only cruise port in Texas, I am joining Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), major cruise lines and many others in calling for the CDC to lift the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) and allow safe, sustainable phased cruising to begin in July.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put the multi-billion-dollar U.S. cruise industry in limbo with no updates since it issued the CSO in October 2020.
The CDC has taken no action despite the following facts:
- Millions of Americans are vaccinated
- COVID case numbers in the U.S. have declined significantly in recent months
- Cruise ports and cruise lines have put measures in place for safe, sustainable cruising
- Cruising in markets around the world has resumed while preventing or limiting spread of the virus
The 40-page CSO outlines what cruise lines need to do before welcoming passengers in the U.S. The three major steps include:
- Providing a plan that will keep ships’ crews safe and healthy
- Conducting a “simulated voyage” to test the ability of the cruise line to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 on its ships
- Certification that ships meet all the requirements in the CSO
At the time the order was announced, the CDC said it “will ensure cruise ship operators have adequate health and safety protections for crew members while these cruise ship operators build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers.”
Safe, Sustainable Cruising
CLIA and the Galveston Wharves share the CDC’s goal. Last fall members of CLIA announced that they had agreed to adopt a set of core elements to pave the path to resume cruising from U.S. ports.
These measures include 100-percent testing for passengers and crew prior to embarkation—making the cruise industry the first in the travel and tourism sector to make such a commitment—as well as other measures, such as physical distancing and face mask requirements, ventilation strategies, and strict protocols for passengers who engage in shore excursions.
These measures are encouraging to me because they were informed by the work and recommendations of leading scientists and health experts.
The Port is Ready
The Port of Galveston is ready to resume safe, sustainable sailings.
We’re communicating and coordinating with local health authorities and county, state and federal agencies to ensure that this region is prepared.
We’ve enhanced our cruise terminal complex to CDC standards as outlined in the October 2020 framework for conditional sailings. We’ve invested about $100,000 in improvements intended to reduce the spread of the virus at our two cruise terminals. Additions include touchless bathroom fixtures, plexiglass shields in customer service areas, and enhanced air handling systems.
Revive Our Economy
Suspension of cruising from Galveston has resulted in a $1.2 billion loss in direct spending and a reduction of 23,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in wages statewide.
This multi-billion-dollar industry is the ONLY industry prohibited by the federal government from operating, even as other sectors of travel, tourism, and hospitality have opened or continued to operate throughout the pandemic.
With hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs at stake, a resumption of cruising with appropriate measures is critical to putting people back to work and fueling a strong economic recovery.