There is no doubt that the cruise is not quite back to what it was before the pandemic. However, it is clear that the industry is making considerable progress in returning to sailing.
Concrete example: according to CDC data there are now 100 cruise ships sailing or preparing from the United States.
These data come from CDC Cruise Ship Color Status Monitor. Every day, cruise ships currently sailing with passengers and visiting a U.S. port – or planning to do so in the future – submit health data to the CDC for health surveillance.
The number of vessels monitored has grown steadily in recent months. At the start of August, there were only about 65 vessels being tracked. But on November 22, that number reached 100. (Today it stands at 101.)
Now not all of those ships are back with passengers. At last count, 76 were listed as sailing trips with paying passengers. The others are only crewed on the ship pending their official return.
The ships that have returned are from all the major cruise lines including popular names like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney, Celebrity, Princess, etc. In total, nearly 20 different cruise lines are represented on the 100+ ships.
Considering that at this time last year no the ships were sailing in the United States – and it was not even known when they would sail again – this marks a significant step forward in their return.
But will this progress slow down due to a new threat?
Sudden worries of a new variant
As mentioned, the cruise was methodical in its return. The lines are leaving with reduced capacities while regularly adding new ships. There is now another hurdle to overcome. A new variant dubbed “Omicron” suddenly made headlines around the world.
Seemingly overnight, headlines spread with concerns about its potential impact on public health. Some headlines called it the “worst variant,” while others questioned whether it might make vaccines less effective or lead to worse outcomes for those who get sick.
As part of shortened trading on Friday, the S&P 500 fell 2.3% on the news, while all shares of major cruise lines fell at least 10%. Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom quickly implemented travel restrictions from countries where the variant is widespread.
While there have been other concerns about the variants in the past (including Delta), the action surrounding Omicron has apparently been the most sudden and ambitious since the start of the pandemic.
Too early to tell what will happen regarding cruises and Omicron
At this point, however, while there is a lot of guesswork, there is little hard evidence about the variant. This includes whether vaccines are still effective, how transmissible they are between people, and whether cases are more severe than with other variants.
It also means that there is no word yet on how cruise lines will react to the news, if at all at all at this time. Vaccinations are already widely required across all lines, as are testing within two days of leaving the United States. Some cruises also require testing at the terminal just before boarding.
But with cases of the new variant found in more countries, there are concerns that it has already started to spread widely. And with countries imposing travel restrictions, then there is a possibility that cruises will be affected – whether it’s adjusting schedules and ports, having to implement different protocols on the ship, or both. .
To be clear, at this point there has been no major change. As we have seen with this whole health crisis, however, the situation can change quickly. Considering the sudden concern over this new variant and the moves already made, it is worth watching.
The good news? As we saw earlier in the pandemic, if there are any canceled cruises due to Omicron, passengers should expect a refund. Additionally, if you are worried about the virus, many lines offer relaxed cancellation policies that will allow you to cancel and receive credit for a future booking.
Until then, all we can do is wait and see what will happen. We will continue to monitor the news for any changes in cruises in response to this new threat.