After Cruise Lines International Association, the US Travel Association and the governor of Florida called on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update its guidance regarding cruise ships sailing out of U.S. ports, they have finally done so.
Late Friday afternoon (and on a holiday weekend, no less), the CDC issued the long-awaited Phase II of its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order. It essentially summarized updated technical instructions for resuming cruises. From their media statement:
This phase, the second of the CSO issued in October 2020, provides technical instructions on:
- Increasing from weekly to daily the reporting frequency of COVID-19 cases and illnesses.
- Implementing routine testing of all crew based on each ship’s color status.
- Updating the color-coding system used to classify ships’ status with respect to COVID-19.
- Decreasing the time needed for a “red” ship to become “green” from 28 to 14 days based on the availability of onboard testing, routine screening testing protocols, and daily reporting.
- Creating planning materials for agreements that port authorities and local health authorities must approve to ensure cruise lines have the necessary infrastructure in place to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 on their ships to include healthcare capacity and housing to isolate infected people and quarantine those who are exposed.
- Establishing a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel.
The next phase of the CSO will include simulated (trial) voyages that will allow crew and port personnel to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers.
Royal Caribbean was way ahead of them with that last part, weren’t they? 😉
The CDC also gave an update on their stance on vaccines:
COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of passenger operations. As more people are fully vaccinated, the phased approach allows CDC to incorporate these advancements into planning for resumption of cruise ship travel when it is safe to do so. CDC recommends that all eligible port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them.
Several cruise lines (including this large one), have already announced their plans for making vaccines a requirement for sailing, whereas others were taking a wait-and-see stance.
The one thing the CDC update did not include was any sort of clarity regarding when cruise ships can actually start sailing out of the U.S. again. It only mentioned cruising in relation to their phases. From the media release:
Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult. While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, following the phases of the CSO will ensure cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern.
Cruise lines’ response to the update appeared to be mixed. As quoted in the Sun-Sentinel, a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean appeared optimistic:
As we review their guidance, our hope is that it is based on the latest scientific data, including the increasingly significant impact of the vaccines. We will share updates on our plans in the coming weeks, and look forward to real progress that will give our crew and destination partners the opportunity to help us get back to delivering memorable vacations, and for our guests to take the well-deserved time off they’ve missed.
However, a representative for Norwegian Cruise Line seemed to be more disappointed:
We are reviewing these new requirements and continue to work toward a path to the safe resumption of cruising in the U.S. while protecting guests, crew and the communities we visit. While disappointed in this overdue announcement, we remain optimistic that cruising will resume from U.S. ports before the end of the summer.
So, at least there’s an update. It’s something. But for those who still had their fingers crossed that cruising would somehow start again this summer, well, I suppose it could happen? But without a timeline update short of this recent statement/confirmation, November would still be the biggest contender for a potential “official” start, I guess?
Feature Photo: Disney Cruise Line
*** Many thanks to Darlene K. for the heads up about this topic. Thaaaaaaaanks, Daaaaaaaar! 😉
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary