Cruise Lines Announce Plans for Restarting Sailings in 2020

A new set of protocols will pave the way for sailings throughout the Americas, including in the Caribbean and Mexico. At the top of the list: 100 percent of passengers and crew will be tested for COVID-19.

Cruise Lines Announce Plans for Restarting Sailings in 2020

Could cruising actually resume before the end of the year?

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The world’s largest group of oceangoing cruise lines has adopted a mandatory set of health protocols that members must implement to begin what the organization calls a “highly controlled resumption of operations.”

“Following months of collaboration with leading public health experts, scientists, and governments, we are confident that these measures will provide a pathway for the return of limited sailings from the U.S. before the end of this year,” Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in a September 22 statement.

CLIA consists of more than 50 domestic and international cruise lines, including some of the largest and most well-known, such as Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn, Silversea Cruises, and Windstar Cruises.

Last month, CLIA members agreed to suspend cruise ship operations from U.S. ports until October 31, 2020, as the cruise industry continued to work to address public health issues that have resulted from the coronavirus pandemic. It isn’t clear whether operations could begin sooner if the newly announced health measures are adopted and approved by regulators.

What is clearer, however, is what a resumption of operations will actually look like. Working together with a team of medical and health experts, the CLIA Global Board has developed and unanimously voted to adopt a list of guidelines that cruise lines will need to adhere to.

The core guidelines for safe cruising according to CLIA:

  • Testing—Testing of all passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to embarkation
  • Mask-Wearing—Mandatory wearing of masks by all passengers and crew onboard and during excursions whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained
  • Distancing—Physical distancing in terminals, onboard ships, on private islands, and during shore excursions
  • Ventilation—Air management and ventilation strategies that increase fresh air onboard and, where feasible, using enhanced filters and other technologies to mitigate transmission risk
  • Medical Capability—Risk-based response plans tailored for each ship to manage medical needs, dedicated cabin capacity allocated for isolation and other medical procedures, and advance arrangements with private providers for shoreside quarantine, medical facilities, and transportation
  • Shore Excursions—Shore excursions will only be allowed based on the cruise operators’ prescribed protocols, and strict adherence will be required by all passengers—passengers will be denied reboarding if they don’t comply.

CLIA stated that these measures were guided in part by the successful resumption of cruising in other parts of the world, notably in Europe where lines such as MSC Cruises, Costa, TUI Cruises, Ponant, SeaDream, and others have been operating cruises.

The CDC’s No Sail Order is set to expire on September 30

This is the first time that CLIA has formally announced a set of health protocols that would allow cruising to proceed, something that the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asked the cruise industry to produce. The CDC currently has a No Sail Order for cruise ships that is set to expire on September 30.

As part of its No Sail Order, the CDC has required that cruise lines develop robust plans for preventing and responding to the spread of COVID-19 onboard their ships that must then be approved by the CDC in order for cruise ships to be permitted to sail again. That approval would be the next step in sailings being able to resume.

“With support and approval of regulators and destinations, cruises could feasibly begin during the remainder of 2020,” CLIA stated.

If the CDC approves the measures, implementation of the guidelines will be mandatory and each cruise line CEO will be required to submit an agreement to adhere to them. The guidelines do not preclude additional measures that individual lines may adopt, and they will be continuously evaluated and potentially adjusted in light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

>> Next: Much of Cruising Is Canceled Into the Fall. When Will We Be Able to Sail Again?

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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