HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A year after the CDC shut down cruises because of COVID, officials say the industry is ready to resume with strict guidelines to control the virus.
And some in Hawaii’s tourism industry can’t wait for that day to come.
“The cruise industry is about 30% of our revenue, so that has taken a big hit,” said Amy Cornforth, co-owner of Captain Zodiac.
The tour company has been heavily dependent on the ships that brought nearly 200,000 visitors to Kona in 2019, the year before the pandemic.
Cornforth is among those who’d like to have at least some of those visitors back.
“It would be great, I mean not just for us, but for the whole town, for everyone, all the businesses that revolve around the pier area,” she said.
At the start of the pandemic, fears were heightened about contracting COVID from cruise ships after some passengers came down with the virus. Hawaii County crews even disinfected some parks visited by cruise ship passengers as a precaution.
The industry wants to set sail again in July, but the CDC isn’t saying yet when the cruises can resume.
The governors of Florida and Alaska have filed a lawsuit against the CDC to force it to reopen ports to cruise ships. But, a spokesperson for Gov. David Ige said he won’t join in, because he believes it is counterproductive.
However, Ige joined the governors of Alaska, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, asking the CDC for updated guidance to help cruise lines and ports fully resume operations.
“My perspective is that to turn this back over to the CDC is a step backward,” said Dr. Scott Miscovich of Premier Medical Group.
Miscovich said he has reviewed the cruise industry’s plans, which would require testing of passengers within three days before boarding. Passengers would also have to take a rapid antigen test at every port of call, both when they leave the ship and then again when they return.
He said there are also strict sanitation protocols and procedures aboard the vessels.
“I believe that this industry is ready to go back, and it is safe because they are being so thorough, and they have so much at stake,” Miscovich said. “I mean, they’re so thorough, I would go safely on a cruise.”
Even if cruise ships can be safe, some businesses are still a bit on edge from the visitors that have already started returning.
“We see a lot of people, tourists that are here because they’ve got their negative COVID test and they’re not wearing masks, and there’s a lot of people talking about that,” Cornforth said.
Cornforth remains hopeful that Captain Zodiac, which started in 1974, will resume operation one day.
“We’ve survived recessions, lava flows — it would really be terrible to be taken out by a virus,” Cornforth said.