Brazil Permits Cruising to Resume as COVID Cases Decline
With signs that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant are subsiding, Brazilian authorities decided to permit the cruise industry to restart operations. In December 2021, Brazil recommended that travelers avoid cruises and in early January 2022 the cruise industry paused operations in response to increased regulations. Cruises are resuming tomorrow, March 5, for a truncated season and with continued strict health protocols.
“The decision to resume the cruise season was made based on the alignment of the competent authorities with the cruise sector, states, and municipalities involved, in order to guarantee the safety of tourists and crew members,” announced Gilson Machado Neto, Brazilian Minister of Tourism. “This is a very important segment for the generation of employment and movement of the economy in Brazil.”
The Brazilian Association of Maritime Cruises, the local chapter of the Cruise Lines International Association, extend their appreciation to the Ministries of Tourism, Health, Justice, Infrastructure, Civil Cabinet, and Anvisa, in addition to the states and municipalities, whose support was fundamental for the resumption of the last six weeks of cruising scheduled for the current season. CLIA reported that four cruise ships, operated by Costa and MSC Cruises, would be operating 19 itineraries that will stop at eight destinations for the remainder of the season, which is scheduled until April 18, 2022. The summer season is due to resume in October 2022.
To win the approval of the government and local authorities to resume cruises, CLIA and the lines committed to maintaining strict protocols including a requirement that all passengers and crew are fully vaccinated. Pre-embarkation COVID tests are required for passengers and onboard there will be a representative sampling of tests among at least 10 percent of passengers and crew, as well as a requirement for masks. The ships will also operate with reduced capacities to facilitate social distancing for the remainder of the season.
By some estimates, the two-month pause in operations caused the industry to lose up to half its expected 360,000 passengers during the season which began in November 2021. The Brazilian Report says that CLIA reported that “1,100 of the 130,000 tourists and crewmembers on cruise ships between November and January tested positive for the coronavirus.”
While the four cruise ships homeported in Brazil for the season are resuming sailing, the pause cost the Brazilian tourism industry with the loss of the international cruise programs. Cruise lines that had scheduled trips to South America canceled their programs. Oceania Cruises, for example, canceled four cruises on its ship the Marina scheduled for January and February citing Brazil’s port closures and increased testing requirements and protocols in Argentina and Chile.
The sudden drop in cases of COVID-19 is being reflected across the cruise industry creating new enthusiasm for a further rebound in the coming months. The U.S. CDC in its latest update, for example, reports that 42 cruise ships sailing from U.S. ports have not reported cases of COVID-19 and another 47 have now fallen below the level for being investigated with only 25 cruise ships reporting a sufficient number of recent cases among passengers and crew to prompt investigations and monitoring. That compares with the beginning of 2022 when the CDC’s data showed that every cruise ship sailing from U.S. ports had reported recent cases of COVID-19.