U.S. Cruising Won’t Restart Until 2021

Cruise lines have extended their pause on sailings through the end of the year as they address the CDC’s new cruising guidelines.

U.S. Cruising Won’t Restart Until 2021

Cruise lines have pushed pause on sailings until December 31, 2020.

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The world’s largest group of oceangoing cruise lines has agreed to suspend cruise ship operations from U.S. ports until December 31, 2020, as the cruise industry works to address new criteria that was recently unveiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the safe resurrection of cruise operations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“This action will provide additional time to align the industry’s extensive preparation of health protocols with the implementation requirements under the CDC’s framework for Conditional Sailing,” the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in a November 3 statement. “We will work with urgency to advance a responsible return to cruising while maintaining a focus on effective, science-based measures to protect public health.”

CLIA consists of more than 50 domestic and international cruise lines, including some of the largest and most well-known lines, 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.

CLIA’s statement was issued just after the CDC’s No Sail Order for cruising expired on October 31. In lieu of a No Sail Order, the CDC has issued new guidelines to cruise lines for obtaining a “Conditional Sailing Order,” which requires that cruise lines pass through four phases before being able to resume passenger operations:

  1. Establish testing capabilities for crew and passengers.
  2. Conduct “simulation” cruises with volunteer passengers to prove the cruise line’s ability to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard.
  3. Complete a certification process.
  4. Start operating passenger cruises again, with numerous stipulations in place.

Once they pass through all four of these phases, cruise lines will be able to operate with these standards in place:

  • Cruise lines must inform all prospective passengers of the risks of cruising during COVID-19.
  • Cruises must be limited to no more than seven days.
  • Cruise lines must test all crew and passengers for COVID-19 on the day of embarkation and on the day of disembarkation—results must be procured before either crew or passengers can board or depart the cruise.
  • Any crew or passenger who reports symptoms must be immediately provided with rapid-result COVID-19 tests. Close contacts of those with symptoms must be tested as well.
  • Cruise lines must report all test results to the CDC.
  • Face masks and social distancing must be mandated on ships.

Many of the standards the CDC is asking of the cruise lines had already been agreed upon by CLIA in September, when the organization adopted a mandatory set of health protocols that members must implement in order to begin what the organization calls a “highly controlled resumption of operations.”

CLIA’s list of core guidelines that cruise lines will need to adhere to in order to safely sail again:

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.

“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,” CLIA president and CEO Kelly Craighead said in a response to the CDC’s issuance of a Conditional Sailing Order on October 30.

This story was originally published on March 16, 2020, and has been updated on November 4, 2020, to included current information.

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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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