CLIA Urging Agents to Complete CDC Comment Request Form

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The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is working to assist cruise-selling travel advisors to complete Centers for Disease Control (CDC) comment forms requesting public opinions through September 21 regarding potential cruise-line COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

The CDC’s decision to seek public input regarding onboard COVID-19 protocols before cruise lines can again operate led to Wednesday’s announcement from CLIA of its suspension of member lines’ voyages through October 31, said Charles Sylvia, CLIA’s vice president of industry and trade relations.

CDC has earlier extended its no-sail order through September 30, 2020. Speaking Wednesday at a Royal Caribbean International “Coffee Talk” for travel agents hosted by Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of sales and trade support & service, Sylvia encouraged travel agent attendees to complete the CDC questionnaire.

The responses become part of the public record, said Sylvia, and the comment form also allows cruise sellers to detail the impact the CDC’s no-sail order has had on their businesses.

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“It’s vitally important [travel agents] comment on what you think the resumption of U.S. cruise operations should look like,” he said. “This is your only and best opportunity to tell the federal government what you are experiencing as a result of the no-sail order, including the impact on your business as well as your perspective as an expert on cruise travel.”

Sylvia added, “We know [cruise ships] are the safest, healthiest, cleanest, most sanitized environments in the entire travel industry. Our industry operates at a higher standard than is imposed on us by regulators. We need to communicate that to CDC. All of the comments gathered will inform future public health guidance related directly to travel on cruise ships.”

Sylvia said CLIA will host a webinar Thursday (August 6) to assist travel agents to complete the CDC forms.

Royal Caribbean, meanwhile, is “actively engaged in working through our healthy return to service plan,” said Michael Bayley, Royal Caribbean’s president and CEO. “We are deeply engaged with the blue ribbon panel we formed some time ago and we are reviewing in incredible detail all of the protocols for a healthy return to service.”

Bayley continued, “Our hope is that we are going to reach a conclusion with our panel towards the end of August [and then] submit the complete comprehensive plan. But now there’s the CDC request, and the deadline for public feedback on September 21. That feedback along with the submission of our plan is one of the reasons we suspended sailings another month. We think it will take some time to work with CDC when they see the full details of the plan and see all of the public comments.”

The cruise line is also working with CLIA in the U.S. and U.K. and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) as well as “health experts and multiple governments around the world” on guidelines for the return to service, Bayley said.

Bayley called this week’s news of COVID-19 infections aboard three non-CLIA member cruise ships “unfortunate” and said the episodes “show what a complex challenge this is.”

Bayley explained, “These were two or three smaller brands that operate in a slightly different way, nevertheless it’s unfortunate.” He added, “But it is a learning situation to understand, through the industry associations, how and what happened to create these challenges.”

He also noted that “TUI Cruises in Germany has done four cruises without any incidents and is using different protocols than the brands that experienced the difficulties.”

“The last thing we want to do is return to service and get it wrong. Our clients and travel partners really expect us to get it right and that’s our focus,” he added. Freed said the latest suspension of operations, which she said was the cruise line’s seventh, means “all of our transatlantic departures have been canceled and the balance of our Europe sailings through November.”

Published at Wed, 05 Aug 2020 17:07:00 +0000–CLIA Urging Agents to Complete CDC Comment Request Form

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