The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is letting the no-sail order expire on Oct. 31, setting the stage for a conditional, phased-in return to cruise ship operations.
“Considering the continued spread of COVID-19 worldwide and increased risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships, a careful approach is needed to safely resume cruise ship passenger operations,” the CDC said in its Oct. 30 statement.
“CDC is establishing requirements to mitigate the COVID-19 risk to passengers and crew, prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from cruise ships into U.S. communities, and protect public health and safety.”
The phase-in to cruising will start with testing and implemented safeguards for crew members “while these cruise ship operators build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers.”
After that, “test voyages” will be operated to check that ships meet specific requirements and are able to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
The CDC statement did say it considered extending the no-sail order but “this alternative was not found to be as optimal” as the conditional return to service. “The benefits of this framework outweigh the costs of not allowing cruise ships to sail because it allows for flexibility where cruise ships have taken the necessary precautions to mitigate risk, while continuing to prohibit passenger operations onboard ships that have failed to implement such precautions. As such, the current framework represents a tailored approach that was determined to be preferable to the status quo no-sail order.”
The CDC said it considered recommendations from the Healthy Sail Panelconvened by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, as well as a medical conference by Carnival Corp. and another panel by MSC Cruises.
The CDC also said it “carefully considered” the nearly 13,000 public comments it received over a two-month period that ended Sept. 21. A majority of the respondents – 75 percent – favored a return to cruising with appropriate testing and health protocols, while 25 percent preferred waiting, especially until a vaccine is widely available. About 85 percent supported face coverings.
“While we look forward to reviewing the new order in detail, we expect much of the Healthy Sail Panel’s recommendations, which were adopted by CLIA’s Global of Directors earlier this month, have been considered and will serve as an important foundation,” said Kelly Craighead president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association.
“The cruise industry and the CDC have a long track record of working together in the interest of public health, and we look forward to continuing to build upon this legacy to support the resumption of cruising from U.S. ports. With enhanced measures in place, and with the continued guidance of leading experts in health and science as well as the CDC, we are confident that a resumption of cruising in the U.S. is possible to support the economic recovery while maintaining a focus on effective and science-based measures to protect public health.”