The US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added new verbiage to the Conditional Sail Order (CSO). This has been the first update to the CSO since May 26. The new measures now include that cruise ship operators should not just have protocols in place for unvaccinated guests in US ports but must now have measures to handle any occurrences of COVID in all foreign ports. This then plays into the insurance requirements that the cruise lines have been adopting in recent weeks.
CDC Updates on The CSO
The updates on the Conditional Sail Order from the CDC come at a time when ships have been sailing for a few weeks now. Possibly the CDC noticed shortcomings in their procedures and have now attempted to rectify those. The CDC also updated its protocols for testing crew members on board, increasing this from 14-day intervals to 7-day intervals if the vessel is anything else but noted as ‘Green’ status.
The new measures ensure that cruise ships and cruise companies have extensive protocols in place for when unvaccinated guests have been confirmed as positive for COVID-19 onboard the ship or who have not been declared negative in the past 90 days while the vessel is sailing to foreign ports.
The new protocols should include how the cruise ship intends to disembark and house those suspected or confirmed with COVID-19, needing shore-based hospital treatment for themselves and their travel partners for the duration of the quarantine or isolation period. It should also include how the cruise companies intend to repatriate a US-based person with COVID and close contacts. The CDC states this on their website:
“Cruise ship operators must have a protocol for managing persons with COVID-19 and close contacts who are not fully vaccinated and did not recover from COVID-19 in the previous 90 days at all foreign ports of call.“
- Disembarkation and housing of persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 needing shore-based hospital care and their travel companion(s) for the duration of their isolation or quarantine period.
- Commercial repatriation of U.S.-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts only after meeting criteria to end isolation and quarantine per CDC guidance. For commercial repatriation of foreign-based persons with COVID-19 close contacts, cruise ship operators must consult with all relevant public health authorities.
It would seem then that before a US citizen is allowed to return to the United States the cruise lines need to ensure that a person and close contacts perform a quarantine period in a foreign country before returning to the US.
However, most cruise lines have already worked around this by making quarantine areas available onboard. This measure would come into play when large-scale outbreaks happen onboard. Something which is unlikely with the current measures in place.
New Insurance Requirements
Carnival and Royal Caribbean have been well aware of the upcoming changes to the CSO. In the last few weeks, the cruise companies launched new initiatives that made an emergency repatriation insurance package mandatory for all guests onboard that are not vaccinated.
Both cruise companies now require all unvaccinated guests to be fully insured with coverage of $30.000 or more. They have also started requiring guests to pay for additional testing during and towards the end of the voyage. Carnival stated the following on its website only last week:
“Each unvaccinated guest must provide proof of a valid travel insurance policy at the time of check-in that has a minimum of $10,000, per person, in medical expense coverage and $30,000 coverage for emergency medical evacuation and without COVID-19 exclusions. Guests without the required proof of insurance will not be permitted to sail and no refund will be provided.”
Carnival Cruise Line is sailing from both Florida and Texas with a mandatory vaccination requirement, meaning it would have a maximum of 5% of guests onboard that have not been vaccinated. Royal Caribbean has done away with the vaccine requirement in Florida and instead has opted to sail with both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests.
The new measures from the CDC now ensure that cruise lines will need to make port agreements with not just US ports but also with all foreign ports they visit, adding another layer of measures that will make the cruise lines increasingly unwilling to sail with any unvaccinated guests.