Carnival Cruise Line is in talks with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is "working towards" restarting sailing in July, Carnival President Christine Duffy said Monday.
With their close confines and larger share of passengers who are older and more vulnerable, cruise ships were the sites of some of the first coronavirus outbreaks outside China.
Cruises were largely shut down under a CDC "No Sail Order" from March to October. On May 5, the CDC issued updated guidance allowing cruise ships to conduct "trial" voyages and apply for certificates for restricted passenger trips.
Carnival, owned by Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise corporation in the world by revenue, bringing in $8 billion annually — confirmed that it is in active discussions with the CDC about reopening after a hiatus.
"We are again," Duffy said about the negotiations in an interview with "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt. "So for a while we weren't, and we respect that. Obviously, at the beginning, the focus really was on getting vaccine in arms, but they've come back to the table with us, and in early spring, I think, in earnest with us and with other inner-agency groups, to really get clear on what guidelines and protocols are going to be required for us to sail again from U.S. ports."
A key point in the discussions is the requirement for passengers and crew members to be fully vaccinated. The CDC has said cruise ships can resume open-water sailing if 98 percent of crew members and 95 percent of passengers are fully vaccinated.
"There's no mandate for any other business to have that requirement," Duffy said. "We certainly are encouraging everyone to get a vaccine, and our crew members that have ... are very grateful to have that opportunity."
No vaccine has been authorized for children under 12, so they would not be allowed on board. Family tickets make up a large chunk of cruise industry bookings.
"Children under 12 are a big part of the cruise experience in a family vacation in the summer, and as it stands right now, we wouldn't be able to have kids under 12 on board," Duffy said.
The cruise industry is eager to work with the administration and to set sail again soon, she said.
"We employ about 500,000 people in the U.S., and we've lost about 300,000 direct jobs at this point. We're down about 40 percent of employees, and we have 30,000 crew members that we repatriated at the start of this who were at home waiting to come back to work," Duffy said.
"The CDC and the interagency groups that are working with us now have that same goal in mind, as President Biden said. He wants to reopen America by the Fourth of July, and we want to make sure that the cruise industry can be part of that reopening of America," she said.