Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain expressed optimism Monday that cruise lines will be able to resume operations this summer, more than one year after the industry effectively shut down in the coronavirus pandemic.
In a video message, Fain noted that "pace of progress has accelerated" for an industry restart due to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, improved testing and contract tracing. The Royal Caribbean CEO also cited progress in discussions with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials, who indicated earlier this month that cruises could be able to resume on a limited basis by mid-summer.
"We agree with that assessment and we're more optimistic than ever that a realistic path forward can be achieved in that time frame," Fain said. "That would enable a summer season in Alaska and elsewhere."
The CDC issued a "no sail order" for US cruise lines last March amid concerns they could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic. The agency issued a conditional sailing order allowing cruises to resume last October, but only if operators adhere to a rigorous safety process.
Cruise operators and Republican lawmakers have pressured the CDC to lift restrictions in recent weeks.
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Rick Scott and Dan Sullivan introduced legislation earlier this month that sought to overturn the CDC’s ban and allow sailing to resume by July. In a separate action, the state of Florida sued the CDC in a bid to end the ban on cruises.
Fain noted that the ultimate decision on when cruises can resume will rest on the CDC. He noted that the Biden administration "seems ready to have the kind of dialogue that could lead to a constructive outcome." More than 30 countries have allowed cruises to resume since initial pandemic-related shutdowns.
The Royal Caribbean CEO added that public support for the cruise industry has "demonstrated that there is a strong desire to see cruising treated like so many other businesses and allowed to operate under safe guidelines."