'I am ecstatic': COVID-19 vaccine inspires confidence among cruise passengers, industry
Nancy Sobel, who calls herself a "cruiseaholic," is ready to go back to sea and has been preparing as soon as news of the spread of the COVID-19 vaccine broke.
Sobel had booked four cruises for 2020 before the pandemic broke out, including a transatlantic cruise with her son from New York to Rome in May that was canceled.
"When the vaccine became a reality, I booked the same trip, but the other way around, for November 2021," Sobel told USA TODAY.
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Many cruisers were ready to board cruise ships before the vaccine distribution began.
But now that the vaccines are rapidly being distributed across the country, more cruise passengers along with industry officials and health officials have expressed confidence.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain vaccines that could help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships that have not sailed US waters since March after several outbreaks on ships at the start of the pandemic.
Caitlin Shockey, a spokeswoman for the CDC, told USA TODAY that vaccination, combined with other preventive measures such as COVID-19 tests before and after travel, wearing masks, hand washing, social distancing and frequent cleaning, is an effective strategy for reducing transmission can be of COVID-19 while traveling - even on cruises.
"As effective vaccines become more prevalent in the US and internationally, they can be used to reduce the risk of travel-related transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 and transmission of the virus from one location to another," Shockey said.
Adam Goldstein, global chairman of the Cruise Lines International Association, the leading industry organization, told USA TODAY that he believes a vaccine will help when cruise lines are on their way back to sea.
"When you look at the bigger picture, it's clearly good news for everyone," Goldstein said. "(The vaccine is an) incredible achievement of human knowledge and science. It is a boon to all and the cruise industry will clearly be a beneficiary."
Goldstein added that CLIA continues to believe that a layered approach, including universal COVID-19 testing, is the right thing to do to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission on board a cruise ship.
"CDC Endangers American Lives": Members of Congress urge CDC to resume "No-Sail" cruise orders
The passengers feel more optimistic
Passengers who may have hesitated to transfer ships are also more optimistic.
Gay Courter was on board the Diamond Princess, one of the first ships to quarantine passengers due to coronavirus infections. More than 700 people were infected with the virus and more than a dozen died. Courter has since written a book about the experience, stating that it was inspired by the news and that it believes everyone on board should be vaccinated prior to re-cruising - although this is not currently a requirement for future cruisers.
She added that she saw some cruisers on forums saying they weren't ready to get the vaccine.
"Cruise lines have tried different strategies to isolate and wear masks, but all have failed," Courter told USA TODAY about cruising coronavirus cases in Europe and Asia, where operations have resumed. "Cruises will continue to be a viral nightmare unless everyone on the ship has the vaccine."
"There should be vaccination records - just like years ago to check if we had smallpox, typhus, polio, etc. - to protect these countries," she added, noting, "Travel is not a given right."
A frequent cruiser, Myla Goldman doesn't hesitate to come back on board. "I'm excited that there are several viable vaccines," she told USA TODAY.
In fact, Goldman is so pleased with the idea of going back to sea that she decided to live on a cruise ship. "I will be a resident of Storylines Condo / Cabin. They are building a new ship that will be ready in 2023 and I am very excited to be joining them."
By then, if cruising becomes a viable option, Storylines could charter a ship that residents can live on until 2023. But it is "everything".
"Devastating Effects": According to the cruise industry, 254,000 American jobs and $ 32 billion in economic activity will be lost
But when can passenger cruises sail in the US?
Regardless of the interest of the cruisers, it is unclear when passenger cruises will resume in U.S. waters, despite cruise companies like Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Group have restarted cruises abroad with a few starts and stops.
The cruise industry suspended cruises until 2021 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "No-Sail" regulation expired in late October and was replaced by a "Conditional Sailing Regulation".
But that doesn't mean that passengers will start sailing in January. In fact, most major cruise lines have already extended their sailing suspensions in US waters through 2021, with some cancellations through March.
"This 'framework of conditional sailing' establishes a path - a gradual, deliberate and deliberate path - to resume passenger traffic, but only if it is safe, if (the cruise industry) can ensure health and if it is in relation to the needs are in charge of Dr. Martin Cetron, director of CDC's global migration and quarantine division, said US TODAY when the contract was announced on Oct. 30.
Following the announcement of the contract, the CDC published a Level 4 travel notice in late November advising that "everyone" should avoid travel on cruise lines around the world as "the risk of COVID-19 on cruise lines is very high".
"Cruise passengers are at increased risk of spreading infectious diseases, including COVID-19, from person to person, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise lines," the organization said on its website.
MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises: Cancel Christmas, New Years cruises in Italy amid COVID-19
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: COVID vaccine a boon for cruises: passengers, industry enthusiasts
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