The recent discontinuation of a program by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tracked COVID-19 cases aboard cruise ships and reported findings to the public has no effect on how state agencies deal with the virus on cruise ships.
“Cruise ships are still reporting COVID-19 cases to the Department of Health and are required to do so because COVID-19 is a reportable disease,” said Brooks Baehr, spokesman for the state DOH.
The initiative, known as the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, ended July 18, according to the CDC.
“CDC will continue to publish guidance to help cruise ships continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and communities going forward,” the agency said on its website.
The CDC acknowledged cruise-line travel still poses “some risk of COVID-19 transmission,” but leaves it up to individuals whether or not to cruise and whether to get vaccinated and tested.
Jai Cunningham, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said DOT Harbors Division still has port agreements in place with cruise line companies.
“There has been no change due to the CDC’s announcement … ,” Cunningham said.
Several of the earliest publicized COVID-19 outbreaks occurred on cruise ships, and the CDC program monitored outbreaks on them, with color codes showing the levels of cases aboard the ships.
The cruise industry was severely affected during the pandemic, and the CDC shut down the industry in the U.S. in March 2020, with cruises restarting with CDC-imposed restrictions in July 2021.
According to data from the Cruise Line Industry Association, in 2020 and 2021 cruise ship companies lost a collective $63 billion and thousands of jobs.
Recent reports from the industry, however, suggest cruises are bouncing back.
Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Line — the latter the parent company of the Pride of America, which cruises interisland in Hawaii — have all reported they can accommodate full passenger loads.
Carnival has announced it’s dropping precruise testing for vaccinated passengers on voyages that are five nights or fewer starting Thursday. Passengers can get tested three days before departure for trips six nights or longer.
Royal Caribbean Group, as of Aug. 8, will require testing for vaccinated guests only on sailings that are six or more nights. Testing will still be required for unvaccinated guests on all trips.
According to the state Department of Economic Development, Business and Tourism, the months of June through August are typically a slower period for out-of-state cruise ships entering Hawaii.
In June, 1,118 visitors came to Hawaii aboard one out-of-state cruise ship that also had a turnaround tour. Visitors who arrived on this out-of-state cruise ship toured the islands and then departed Hawaii by air.
After the first group of cruise visitors left, a new group of visitors flew into Honolulu to embark the ship, toured the islands, then most left with the ship to visit the next port.
In addition to the 999 visitors that flew into Honolulu for the turnaround tour on this out-of-state cruise ship, another 4,225 visitors flew to the state to board the Pride of America, a Hawaii homeported cruise ship.
By comparison, in June 2019 during the last prepandemic summer, 738 visitors arrived on two small out-of-state cruise ships. There were no turnaround tours. Another 12,618 visitors came by air to board the Pride of America.
For the first half of 2022, 29,181 visitors entered Hawaii via 21 out-of-state cruise ships. There were 4,983 visitors who came by air to board turnaround tours on out-of-state cruise ships and another 13,061 visitors came by air to board the Pride of America.
In the first half of 2019, 77,035 visitors came to Hawaii by way of 37 out-of-state cruise ships, and 64,238 visitors flew to Hawaii and boarded the Pride of America.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.