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Travel agents waiting for CDC to allow cruise ships to set sail in U.S.

It's been more than a year since a cruise ship has set sail in American waters. That could soon change, much to the relief of people in the travel industry.

The cruise industry in the U.S. is still docked.

Maryanne Crean runs Cruise Source One Travel Agency out of her home in Canadensis. Sally Black does the same with Vacationkids, based in Kunkletown. Both travel agents say the demand to set sail is definitely there.

"We've been having requests coming in for cruising straight along, people wanting to cruise not only this summer, and we couldn't accommodate them, but also ahead. I can tell you, bookings for 2022, I'm currently working on a cruise for a family in the Mediterranean, and I can hardly find availability," said Black.

"First, in April, they wanted to go next year, they wanna go late because they want to give themselves that room. But now, I find people are booking for May, June, and July, so people are ready, and they're feeling comfortable," said Crean.

But public health officials still haven't given the green light for cruises to bring passengers back on board in the U.S. Cruises are already sailing in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

The CDC announced last week it's committed to getting ships back in American waters by mid-summer. 95% of the passengers will have to be vaccinated, as well as 98% of the crew.

Travel agents we talked to don't predict that will be a problem.

"I can't wait to get on a cruise. The last time, it was October of 2019. So whatever it takes, I'm going to get on that ship. And I think a lot of people feel the same way," said Crean.

But still, travel agents say it'll be a while before it's truly "anchors aweigh" for the cruise industry.

"I think it'll be another couple of years yet before, you know, all the cruise ships are back at sea, all the airlines have normal scheduling availability, and pricing levels off," said Black. "One of the things that have been holding up the process of getting the ships back out at sea is the CDC was requiring the cruise lines to sail for 90 days with non-revenue guests, sort of guinea pigs to test it. Now, you have companies that have been out of work for 18 months, and the CDC is asking them to sail people for free. That's kind of harsh."

The requirement to have "trial voyages" was part of the CDC's "Conditional Sailing Order," issued last fall. Ships can now bypass that requirement if the vaccination percentages are met.

Although demand is high, Black says her business is nowhere near where it would have been without the pandemic. She was gearing up for a record-breaking year in 2020. 

Crean says the same. 

"Last year, everyone was traveling like nobody's business. Once April hit, everything caved."

But as more and more people get vaccinated for their vacations, folks in the travel industry feel encouraged that smooth sailing is not too far away.

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