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CDC Extends “No Sail Order” for Cruise Ships Until October

By Michelle Baran

Jul 17, 2020

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Cruise lines have pushed pause on most sailings into the fall.

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Cruise lines have pushed pause on most sailings into the fall.

The agency has extended the order more than two months beyond the original July 24 expiration date stating that cruise ships continue to be at risk for coronavirus outbreaks.

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This is a developing story. For up-to-date information on traveling during the coronavirus outbreak, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended its No Sail Order for cruise ships until September 30, 2020, citing the ongoing challenges for safely operating cruise ships during the global coronavirus pandemic. The order was previously set to expire on July 24.

The move comes one month after the world’s largest group of oceangoing cruise lines had already agreed to suspend cruise ship operations from U.S. ports until September 15, 2020, as they continue to work to address the public health issues that have resulted from the pandemic.

“Although we had hoped that cruise activity could resume as soon as possible after [July 24], it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States,” the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in a June 19 statement.

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.

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The CDC’s updated No Sail Order applies to cruise ships that carry 250 passengers or more and that operate from U.S. ports. The agency stated that passengers and crew on these ships remain at increased risk of COVID-19 infection due to the “crowded” environment on cruise vessels.

The CDC is requiring 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. According to the CDC, seven cruise lines have presented their plans, including Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Virgin Voyages, Windstar Cruises, MSC Cruises, and Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines. But aside from those submitted by Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines, the plans were “incomplete,” according to the agency, and did not fully meet its requirements.

The “areas of major concern” in the submitted plans included inadequate details regarding how COVID-19 testing equipment and procedures would be obtained and carried out; insufficient information about how social-distancing measures will be implemented onboard; not enough medical care facilities; and remaining questions about buffet food service, salons, and gyms onboard. The agency said it has provided feedback to the cruise lines that submitted plans and is working with them on how best to address the concerns.

Other cruise lines announce new start dates for the summer and fall

Luxury cruise line Cunard, which is owned by Carnival Corporation, in June stated that it will be extending its pause in operations until November. 

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“With many differing restrictions across countries, people’s ability to move freely and safely across borders remains seemingly someway in the distance,” stated Cunard president Simon Palethorpe. “We also need to better understand the implications COVID-19 will have onboard our ships. . . . We are looking at enhanced protocols across all aspects of ship life and experiences on shore.”

Several notable cruise lines that are not CLIA members, including Viking Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions, and UnCruise Adventures, have all announced restart dates for later this year as well.

In early July, Viking Cruises announced that it will extend the suspension of all of its sailings through September 30. Guests on canceled cruises will receive a future cruise credit equal to 125 percent of the original amount they paid to Viking. The vouchers are valid for 24 months, and if guests are unable to use them by the expiration date, they can exchange them for a refund.

Small-ship adventure cruise line UnCruise Adventures in June announced that it will start its 2020 Alaska sailings on August 1, with a new coronavirus protocol in place that will include daily temperature checks for guests and crew, enhanced sanitation of high-touch areas and of the adventure gear and equipment, the use of masks during certain events, and plated meals that will replace buffet service.

In its May earnings report, Lindblad Expeditions said it had canceled sailings into the summer and that it was working to implement enhanced safety measures such as coronavirus testing once operations are able to resume.

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“We firmly believe that the smaller size of our ships, our advanced cleaning systems and robust operating protocols, along with the remote geographies we visit, and the profile of our guests, ideally situates us to be able to resume operations safely and effectively once travel restrictions have been lifted,” Lindblad’s president and CEO Sven-Olof Lindblad, stated in the company’s first quarter earnings release.

Lindblad reported that despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis and the onslaught of cancellations brought on by it, the company did see more than $15 million in new bookings made between March and May for travel in 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Virgin Voyages pushes back first sailings to October

Virgin Voyages—Richard Branson's cruise project—is now scheduled to set sail in October.

The launch of Virgin Voyages, the new Richard Branson–backed, adult-only cruise line that was supposed to host its inaugural sailing in April, has been pushed back as well, with the first cruise on the new Scarlet Lady vessel now set for October 16.

The cruise line said it is working to identify a quick and effective COVID-19 test that it would be able to use to ensure only those who test negative are allowed to board. The line is also installing AtmosAir Solutions air purification systems on board, a technology that has been shown to kill viruses, according to Virgin Voyages. It will also implement frequent health checks and screenings for crew and passengers, enhanced sanitation (including through the use of fogging and UV technology), and limit onboard occupancy so that passengers can practice physical distancing. A food delivery service called ShipEats will allow for contactless drop-off and pickup.

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

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