Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former chief of the Food and Drug Administration who helped advise the cruise lines on shaping their health and safety protocols for returning to the sea, says ships could return to sailing with one extra proviso.
“I believe you can create a safe bubble around that experience,” the former FDA chief told CNBC in an interview.
Gottlieb’s comments came one day after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state has sued the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demanding the public health agency allow cruise lines to immediately resume sailing from the U.S. ports.
Currently, cruise lines are in a conditional no-sail order until November.
The industry has been embroiled in a battle with the CDC for months now over when cruise ships can return to sailing from the U.S.
Gottlieb co-chaired an advisory panel for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean on their new health protocols.
“They’ve committed to things like mandatory testing of passengers,” he said on CNBC. “Norwegian Cruise Line came out recently saying they’re going to require vaccination of all their passengers.”
Gottlieb also noted that social distancing would be possible on the ships, saying “these cruises are not going to operate at full capacity. As you start to implement all these public health recommendations … you start to create an environment that could be quite safe. I believe you can create a safe bubble around that experience, especially when you’re comparing it to other vacation experiences where you can’t control the environment.”
In response to CNBC’s request for comment on Gottlieb’s remarks, the CDC said via email that it’s “committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the conditional sailing order. This goal aligns with the desire for resumption of passenger operations in the United States expressed by many major cruise ship operators and travelers, hopefully by mid-summer.”