Cruises look long as Omicron rises

Cruises look long as Omicron rises

All of which should spell bad news for various cruise lines like Carnival (CCL), Disney (DIS), Norwegian (NCLH) and Royal Caribbean (RCL), which have ships on the CDC’s Cruise Ship Color Status. In a statement last week, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) criticized the CDC’s move as “particularly perplexing,” given that the total number of cases on ships were a “slim minority of the total population onboard.”

With new infections showing no sign of relenting anytime soon, the CDC has said cruises should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC increased the travel warning for ships to level 4 — the highest risk level — amid a surge of coronavirus outbreaks on seafaring vessels. 

Highlights

  • “The science does not support the CDC. You’re actually safer on a cruise ship,” Stewart Chiron, a cruise expert, told Yahoo Finance on Monday.

  • Yet the stocks of all of those companies ended sharply higher on Friday, underscoring how the industry is taking the long view on Omicron. The mutation is highly transmissible but less debilitating, especially among the vaccinated. And despite the CDC’s worrying call, ships have kept sailing from ports around the country. 

He argued that cruises are doing what they can to mitigate risk, insisting it’s “more safe on a cruise ship than it is to be at home.”

“Everybody’s being vaccinated, everyone’s tested, frequently. We’re seeing an increase, which is 90% of these recent cases are crew, not passengers,” Chiron added. 

It’s unclear how long the CDC’s travel advisory will be in place, but the agency has issued a Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) that’s been extended until January 15.

Story continues

Omicron explosion on ships The Queen Mary 2 cruise ship by Cunard Line, owned by Carnival Corporation & plc. is seen docked at Brooklyn Cruise Terminal as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Brooklyn, New York City, U.S., December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

However, the data paint a different picture. In figures provided to Yahoo Finance, the CDC found that between November 30 and December 14, only 162 COVID-19 cases were reported to the agency by cruise ships operating in U.S waters.  Yet between December 15-29, over 5,000 COVID-19 cases were reported from cruise ships — a whopping 31 times the number of cases from the comparable two week period. 

“Unfortunately, a lot of people are not honest about their health situation,” Chiron explained. “And some people think that, ‘well, I’m symptomatic that I’ll be able to fake my way through it,’ but they don’t realize that your symptoms are only going to get worse.” Cruise lines constantly test crew three to four times a week, and are expected to bump up testing as they move forward, he said.

Last week, Royal Caribbean reported an increase in people testing positive, but without a corresponding increase illnesses — a sign of how the Omicron wave has been less grave in terms of medical outcomes.  People are still calling the travel agent. They’re still booking their cruises through the travel agent.Stewart Chiron, travel expert

“The CDC’s color code really is meaningless because one crew, seven passengers, means you go from green to yellow, so it really doesn’t tell anything,” he added. “We also have to take into consideration that some of these ships with the 5,000 number [cases] aren’t even yet in service, and as [they] continue to add more ships, there’s a lot of these ships doing short cruises, three, four, and five night sailings, you’re gonna have higher increase,” Chiron said.