By Lori Musser
It has been a ridiculously difficult year for cruise. In the spring of 2020, COVID-19 pantsed the industry and it has yet to recover.
All is not lost.
An industry that experienced growth exceeding 50% over the past decade is not mired in complacency and is boasting a new wardrobe chock full of incredible ideas. Plans are afoot.
The Cruising Hiatus
In a snapshot of the industry, the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) showed growth from 17.8 million passengers in 2009 to 29.7 million in 2019. The impacts of the pandemic and subsequent pause in cruise operations caused a loss of more than $77 billion in global economic activity, 518,000 jobs, and $23 billion in wages between mid-March and September 2020.
In the months following the suspension, cruise lines engaged experts and government authorities and strengthened already robust public health measures. Anne Madison, CLIA spokesperson, said, “While cruise has not yet resumed in North America, [it has]been occurring on a phased-in basis since last July – with [health]protocols working everywhere they’ve been applied.” She said nearly 400,000 passengers have sailed since last summer in Europe and other parts of the world, with a COVID-19 incidence rate far lower than on land. Madison said that is a testament to coordination between ports and cruise, the industry’s logistical expertise, vessel design and operational agility.
Even in Florida, the epicenter of cruising, where the Florida Seaport Mission Plan reports a billion dollars in planned cruise facility investment over the next five years, and where the state economy remained mostly operational throughout the pandemic, cruising is still at a standstill.
In early April 2021, after a full year of closure of one of its star industries, Florida roared.
The state sued the U.S. government to restart cruising. At a media conference in Miami Governor Ron DeSantis said, “We have tens of thousands of Floridians…who depend on the viability of our cruise industry for their livelihoods, for their jobs, for their ability to feed their families.”
A few weeks later, Alaska followed suit. “Alaska seeks to protect its citizens and its interests by forcing the CDC to act within the limited authority Congress granted it,” Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor said in the announcement. “CDC simply does not have the authority to arbitrarily shut down an entire industry.”