Cruise operators are pushing federal health authorities to let voyages begin in July, but the two sides are clashing on how to restart voyages. The industry argues that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance that travel poses low risks for fully vaccinated individuals should apply to cruises, too. It wants the agency to scrap its plans for a phased sailing restart that has been in place since the fall.

“We’d just like to be treated similar to the rest of travel and entertainment and tourism sector,” Carnival Corp. Chief Executive Arnold Donald said Wednesday. The CDC still recommends against travel on cruise ships because of what it calls a very high risk of Covid-19 on such vessels. And while the agency is sticking with the phased approach, it recently pointed to the possibility of a summer restart of service.

The agency’s “goal aligns with the desire for resumption of passenger operations in the United States expressed by many major cruise-ship operators and travelers, hopefully by midsummer,” a CDC spokeswoman said Wednesday. Cruise operators haven’t sailed from the U.S. for about a year after coronavirus outbreaks brought voyages to a halt.

The industry remains unsatisfied with its treatment. Carnival, the world’s largest cruise operator, is very disappointed with the CDC’s latest guidance for operators, Mr. Donald said. “We support cruising resumption in July and are looking forward to better understand how the CDC sees that unfolding, given there was no timeline issued with their announcement on Friday,” a spokeswoman for trade group Cruise Lines International Association said Wednesday.

The CDC last week issued technical instructions for the industry on increasing the frequency of reporting Covid-19 cases and illnesses from weekly to daily, creating planning materials for cruise lines’ agreements with local authorities and establishing a plan for crew and port’s personnel vaccinations. The update didn’t specify when operators can resume sailing out of the U.S.

The CDC’s framework for a phased restart requires operators to conduct mock sailings and apply for a certificate at least 60 days before offering passenger cruises. The industry says the process shouldn’t be that tedious as vaccination rates pick up. “That is not necessarily a workable or practical solution,” Mr. Donald said of the CDC’s April 2 update, adding that the company is in dialogue with the CDC and the Biden administration.

Todd Horwitz Chief Strategist
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