CDC Releases New Guidelines for Cruise Operations in the U.S.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Will Officially Return To Cozumel In June

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The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its next phase of its ‘Framework for Conditional Sailing Order’ on Friday, an important step to get cruise ships sailing in U.S. waters again.

This is the second phase of the ‘Conditional Sailing Order’ (CSO), which was introduced at the end of October 2020 to replace the CDC’s previous ‘no sail order’. 

The cruising industry has been one of the worst-hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, with cruise ships unable to sail in U.S. waters for more than a year despite cruises taking place in other parts of the world. 

CDC Releases New Guidelines for Cruise Operations in the U.S.

CDC Issues Next Phase of its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order

The next phases of the conditional sailing order described in a news release as ”technical guidance” cover a range of new requirements cruise lines will need to implement to resume operations.

The new guidance requires cruise lines to increase COVID-19 reporting frequency from weekly to daily, implement routine testing, and update the color-coding system used to classify ships’ status in relation to COVID-19.

cruise ship in miami

Additionally, the new guidelines require cruise lines to establish a plan and timeline for vaccinating crew and port personnel, as well as 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.

The CDC said the second phase of the order will include trial voyages to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before taking paying passengers.

cruise ship in florida

When Will Cruises Resume in the U.S.?

The new guidance does not clarify when cruise ships can start sailing in U.S. waters again, something the industry has been eager to find out.

Some cruise lines have even moved their home ports out of the U.S. to operate, while Florida has threatened to sue the CDC if cruises can’t resume. 

carnival freedom cruise ship

The CDC says they are committed to working with the cruise industry and port partners to resume cruising when it is safe to do so. 

“Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult,” the CDC said “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 ship docking in Glacier National Park, Alaska

CDC Encourages Passengers to Get Vaccinated

In the news release, the CDC said that COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of cruise line operations.

The agency urged “all eligible port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them” as well as advising cruise lines to develop a plan and timeline for vaccination of cruises ship crew before resuming passenger operations.

passengers walking towards Royal Caribbean Cruise

The guidelines said cruise lines should educate travelers on the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Some cruise lines have already announced they will require passengers to be fully vaccinated in order to sail.

passengers walking to cruise ship

This news comes after a day full of travel updates from the CDC, who announced that vaccinated Americans are safe to travel in the U.S. and abroad.  As of this weekend, The CDC estimates that more than 56 million or about 17% of Americans have been fully vaccinated.

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