(12:22 p.m. EDT) -- Nearly 2,500 comments have been submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of an initiative launched in late July that saw the organization formally request comments on the resumption of cruising from members of the public.
The request followed the extension of the CDC's "No-Sail" order barring the resumption of cruises from U.S. ports of call until at least September 30, 2020. The No-Sail order was originally put in place on March 13 as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic swept the globe and was extended again in April for a period of 100 days. The ruling was further modified on July 16 and extended to September 30 at that time.
When Cruise Critic wrote up its step-by-step guide on submitting comments to the CDC on August 6, a total of 1,685 comments had been posted. As of this writing -- a mere 12 days later -- a total of 2,490 comments have been submitted; an increase of 805. Not all comments are visible online yet.
What Do the Comments Say?
The tone of the comments received so far is decidedly pro-cruise. Many commenters say the CDC should be giving lines the chance to operate and to prove their safety measures can work.
A large number of respondents noted feeling that the CDC was unfairly singling out the cruise industry for harsh punishment, noting that airlines, hotels, restaurants, bars and other large gathering spaces are not being subjected to the same orders that effectively bar any sort of operation.
"I think that the CDC is being extremely harsh of the cruise industry in general," writes Victoria Odom. "As has been pointed out in previous posts, there are many other industries that should be curtailed and have not been. It's time to bring the industry back into operation. Of course, I would not mind wearing masks while on board and having the buffet stations manned by servers in order to limit unnecessary contact and handling of food."
"We have done over 30 cruises and I feel if they aren't cruising at full capacity at first and follow CDC guidelines they should be good to go," writes Robin Kubiak. "I think flights would be more risky."
"Posing constraints on the cruise industry while allowing large theme parks to open represents the worst kind of bias directed towards a specific industry," writes Lisa Benfield. "Cruise ships already have higher than normal standards for cleanliness. Cruising could easily restart with the addition of procedures put in place immediately before the CDCs unprecedented action."
"I have read and reviewed the RFI Cruise Ship Planning plan as written with CDC guidelines," writes Luci Bellen. "As a cruiser with Royal Caribbean I have personally seen how they clean and control outbreaks like Noro virus on one cruise we were on and are continuing to deal with each year and reporting an outbreak when they happen. They followed the protocols that are in place, with cleaning and quarantine etc…. I have full confidence with sailing again with proper precautions like masks in places where distancing isn't available, just like we are doing at home during this pandemic. I work in healthcare (as an) EMT, with proper PPE and precautions that are being planned look appropriate."
"I am a travel agent (and) this is my livelihood that you have taken away from me," writes Susan Norman. "I have been on 30 cruises in the past and have NEVER gotten sick on a cruise. Cruising is safe and now the cruise lines are taking precautions to make it even safer."
Cruising Asked to Go Beyond Land Venues, Airlines
Many respondents took umbrage with the fact that the cruise lines' proposed health and safety measures go well beyond what similar landside venues are doing.
"It really seems that the cruise lines are not getting a fair deal in this crisis, " writes Tony Tascione. "Airlines have not been nearly as cautious nor can they ensure safety on flights, they are still packing passengers in with no social distancing whatsoever; cruise ships have much more opportunity to social distance passengers and have plans to do so."
"You didn't require any of these additional measures or comments for airlines which can spread it faster by a user flying multiple flights and the plane continuing with new people for the entire day," writes Ryan Hetsler. "Nor did you require comments about opening theme parks. The cruise lines are using safety panels to identify their challenges."
"I've visited Las Vegas already and there is little mask wearing, people touching dirty slot machines and tables and partying," writes Scott Dziuk. "How is that safe? It's not."
Many respondents noted being supportive of the health and safety measures already announced by cruise lines, including improvements to air and ventilation systems, digital muster drills, reduced capacity, and rapid COVID-19 testing at the pier.
Some Eschew Change All Together
A much smaller minority, however, stated they would not comply with health and safety measures in order to cruise.
"My recommendation for cruises going forward is they go back to normal," writes Teresa Merola. "No limited capacity, no masks, no required testing or medical procedures, no social distancing! If people are afraid, they shouldn't go!"
"I will not cruise if it is mandatory to show a test or get a vaccine," writes Felicia Smith. "Disney World, airplanes, Resorts, and hotels are all operating without these and I think cruise lines should be included in that list. I believe that people should be given information and allowed to make a decision that is best for them and their family."
Smith noted that she would be in favor of other measures being implemented, including masks, temperature checks, social distancing and reduced overall capacity.
Other respondents suggested the real issue for the CDC's harsh treatment of the industry has nothing to do with health and everything to do the fact that the cruise industry, like the shipping industry and many other maritime services, uses so-called "Flags of Convenience."
"For years, the CDC has singled out the cruise industry for every "pandemic" that we have had," writes Erick Wyatt. "In all honesty, the issue the CDC has is that the vessels are not flagged as US ships and the companies are registered overseas. Let's put all the cards on the table here and have full transparency."
Minority: Wait Until Vaccine
A very small proportion of respondents suggested that no cruises should resume until a vaccine is available, or until the cessation of the current global health pandemic.
"I truly think cruise ships shouldn't sail until a vaccine is ready," writes Tammy Legget.. "Do (sic) to thousands more people getting sick and stranded at sea."
"I don't think cruise ships will be able to sail anytime soon," writes Kathleen Frederick. "If they sail again, it probably won't be until after a safe vaccine and/or therapeutics are available to treat cases of Covid-19…I doubt that a simple solution like getting rid of buffets, wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing will help the cruise lines. Their mistake also was building ships large enough to carry 5000 passengers."
What Happens Next?
September is shaping up to be a crucial month for cruising and the CDC.
At the end of August, the Health Sail Panel formed by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Group is tentatively scheduled to present its recommendations to the CDC. These will include health and safety protocols being developed by the group to ensure the safe resumption of cruising within the United States, and around the world.
In late September, public feedback on the resumption of cruise will close. The CDC will then have to sort through that data, and no doubt compare it with the policies that cruise lines have presented, and similar health protocols that have been developed in Europe to ensure the safe resumption of cruises there.
The downside is that all of this takes time. The CDC's No Sail order is currently in place until September 30, while CLIA -- the Cruise Lines International Association -- has announced its member lines will voluntarily suspend sailings until at least October 31 from the United States.
CLIA members make up a majority of the world's cruise lines and include brands from Carnival Corporation &plc., Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, and Royal Caribbean Group.
Given that very little progress on the resumption of cruise has been made on the part of the CDC for the first five months of this pandemic, it is reasonable to expect that it could take the CDC the remainder of the year to issue its own guidance on cruises within the United States, and potentially longer for formal changes to be implemented and cruising restarted.
Can I Still Submit My Feedback?
Comments can still be submitted to the CDC up to September 21, 2020. This is particularly encouraged for frequent cruisers and travel agents who will likely have a more intimate understanding of the industry than the CDC will.
Cruise Critic has put together a step-by-step guide on how to submit comments on the resumption of cruising to the CDC for those who still wish to do so. You do not have to be a U.S. resident in order to provide feedback, either.