PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Big changes could soon be coming to Port Canaveral.
Cruises could restart as soon as this summer in American waters, according to published reports.
USA Today reported late Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter to the cruise industry about the potential restart.
“We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the CSO’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities,” said Aimee Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC’s COVID-19 response within its Global Mitigation Task Force.
The letter said no test cruises would be necessary if 98% of crew members and at least 95% of passengers are vaccinated.
USA Today said cruises could begin passenger voyages from the United States as early as mid-July.
Cruises in U.S. waters have been on pause for more than a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a lawsuit against the federal government and the CDC seeking to end the halt on the cruise industry.
Port Canaveral CEO Capt. John Murray said this is the best news he has heard since March 13, 2020 when cruise operations shut down.
“I’m optimistic that we may be on a pathway forward at this point and it’s exciting,” Murray said.
Murray adds the new guidance falls in line with other travel restrictions the CDC has in place.
“This new letter is common sense. If you’ve been vaccinated it creates a different level of requirement getting on and off the ship that more aligns with other CDC guidance that has come out relative to staying in a hotel or traveling on an airplane or any other type of public conveyance,” Murray said.
Murray said the port is ready for cruises to resume.
“I’ve been saying this since the very beginning: Port Canaveral is ready. All we need is a cruise ship and we’re up and running,” he said.
Murray said they have rehired some employees, but they’re not bringing back everyone right away. He adds it could be a slow restart as they wait to see how many ships resume sailing from the port.
“What we have to do first is get started. Once we get started, the industry can prove that it can contain the issues that they had been painted with from what happened over a year ago, I think it will ramp up quickly,” Murray said.
Bob Cook is the director of sales with the travel agency, Go Travel, in Longwood. He said his email is blowing up following the news of cruises possibly setting sail again soon.
“I’ve had 43 emails this morning from clients of Go Travel saying, ‘OK, I want to go in August. OK, I want to go in July,’” Cook said.
Cook adds his clients can’t wait to get back on the ships.
“We’re going to do what we do best. We’re going to put people on happy trips, happy vacations,” Cook said.
Murray said cruises setting sail again will have a tremendous impact on the port and community.
“We’re coming back. I can see an end to this long, drawn out process and we’re very optimistic that the end is in sight and we’re all going to get back to work soon and that’s the best news we could have in our community right now,” Murray said.
News 6 reached out to DeSantis’ office for comment on the new CDC guidance and how this impacts his lawsuit. We’re waiting to hear back.
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