Dr. Scott Gottlieb, who advised cruise lines on Covid protocols, told CNBC on Friday he believes a safe environment can be created on the ships.
Gottlieb’s comments came one day after Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state 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.
Gottlieb, who co-chaired an advisory panel for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean, said on “Squawk Box” the companies have sensible policies in place in preparation for when they’re allowed to begin operating after a Covid pause that’s lasted over a year.
“They’ve committed to things like mandatory testing of passengers. Norwegian Cruise Line came out recently saying they’re going to require vaccination of all their passengers,” said Gottlieb, who served as Food and Drug Administration commissioner from 2017 to 2019 during the Trump administration.
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,” he argued. “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,” he added.
The CDC did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Gottlieb’s remarks.
While the CDC has issued some guidance for cruise lines under its conditional sailing order, the agency has yet to specify a date for operators to resume sailing from U.S. ports.
The cruise industry is growing impatient, after companies raised billions in debt and issued new stock to fund operations while sailing revenues dried up. Late last month, a trade group called on the CDC to permit a phased-in restart in early July. Operators have said they’re seeing strong booking demand, suggesting people are starting to feel comfortable to return to cruises.
“A person today can fly from the U.S. to another country. Get on a cruise ship, and then come back to the U.S. whether they’re vaccinated or not,” Donald said on “Closing Bell.” “But here in the U.S., even if you’re vaccinated, at this point, you couldn’t get on a cruise ship.”
Donald complimented the Biden administration for its work on Covid vaccination distribution in the U.S., where roughly 20% of the population is fully vaccinated. He said he believes the cruise industry and CDC will be able to jointly reach an agreement on sailing.
“The administration has made huge progress with vaccinations and getting command of this thing,” Donald said. “We’re confident we can work together and arrive at something that would be a workable solution and hopefully we have sailings from the U.S. yet this summer.”
— CNBC’s Katie Tsai contributed to this report.
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC contributor and is a member of the boards of Pfizer, genetic testing start-up Tempus, health-care tech company Aetion Inc. and biotech company Illumina. He also serves as co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings′ and Royal Caribbean‘s “Healthy Sail Panel.”