Major cruise news today as cruising could restart in mid-summer in American waters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late Wednesday in a letter to the cruise industry that USA TODAY obtained.
In a statement about the letter, spokesperson Caitlin Shockey gave a more specific timeline. Cruise lines will be able to start passenger operations from the United States in mid-July, depending on how quickly the cruise lines can crew up the ships, as well as be compliant with the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.
More importantly, it is starting to look like the CDC is starting to give in to several of the questions the Cruise industry had asked. This includes bypassing test cruises, and new rules and regulations for vaccinated guests and crew members.
Five Points Of Interest
In the first positive news that the CDC has brought out regarding restarting the cruise industry in recent months, there are five key points we can take away:
- Ships can bypass the required simulated test voyages carrying volunteers and jump to sailings with paying passengers if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.
- CDC will review and respond to applications from cruise lines for simulated voyages within 5 days, a review previously expected to take 60 days.
- CDC will update its testing and quarantine requirements for passengers and crew on sailings with paying passengers to align with the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated people. So, for example, instead of taking a PCR lab test ahead of boarding vaccinated passengers can take a rapid antigen test upon embarkation.
- CDC has clarified that cruise ship operators may enter into a “multi-port agreement” rather than a single port agreement as long as all port and local authorities sign the agreement.
- The CDC has clarified guidance on quarantine guidelines for passengers who may be exposed to or contract COVID-19. For example, local passengers may be able to drive home and passengers who have traveled by air to cruise may quarantine in a hotel.
In a reaction this morning, Royal Caribbean Corporation CEO and President Richard D. Fain called the message from the CDC a pathway to a healthy and achievable return to service:
“Last night, the CDC notified us of some clarifications and amplifications of their Conditional Sail Order which addressed uncertainties and concerns we had raised. They have dealt with many of these items in a constructive manner that takes into account recent advances in vaccines and medical science. Although this is only part of a very complex process, it encourages us that we now see a pathway to a healthy and achievable return to service, hopefully in time for an Alaskan season.”
These are all massively important and time-saving measures that will cut short the timeline towards a resumption of cruises in the United States considerably.
Common Sense and Science
It seems now that the CDC has taken the step to combine both common sense and science in the restart of cruises from the United States, and the steps the agency outlines in the letter can not be under estimated. This is truly the first glimmer of real hope.
Aimee Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC’s COVID-19 response within its Global Mitigation Task Force for COVID-19, said in the letter:
“We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the CSO’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities,”
The CDC has now also confirmed it wants to start passenger operations from Mid July.
CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey said the following:
“CDC looks forward to continued engagement with the industry and urges cruise lines to submit Phase 2A port agreements as soon as possible to maintain the timeline of passenger voyages by mid-July,”
Allround this is excellent news for the cruise industry and one that the cruise lines will be, at least cautiously, optimistic about. As soon as more details emerge about this breaking news, we will of course keep you updated on Cruise Hive.