CDC Updates Cruise Ship Guidance for Face Masks and Ports

The CDC updates its guidance for wearing a mask and on ports for simulated and restricted voyages under the Conditional Sailing Order.

On the day when the CDC is up against the states of Florida, Alaska, and Texas on resuming cruise operations, the agency updates its rule for simulated and restricted cruises. As part of the latest update, vaccinated guests won’t have to wear a mask all the time and be allowed to explore the ports themselves.

It’s a U-turn from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, which previously had some “absurd” requirements, as stated by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio.

CDC Updates Guidance for Cruise Ships

Cruise ships restarting operations out of the U.S. by mid-summer just became more of a reality with the CDC making some updates on its guidance on its requirements on the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).

The new changes are focused on those guests who are fully vaccinated and sailing on simulated and restricted voyages under the CSO framework. There have been many concerns across the industry on the unworkable mask guidelines and now for vaccinated guests, it’s looking a lot more positive.

Cruise Ship Illness with Mask
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

There are still requirements and guidance to follow, especially for those who are not fully vaccinated. It’s still required to wear a mask for an extended meal service or beverage consumption.

The CDC now says for fully vaccinated passengers, “Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise passengers and crew that—if they are fully vaccinated—they may gather or conduct activities outdoors, including engaging in extended meal service or beverage consumption, without wearing a mask except in crowded settings.”

Even more good news for fully vaccinated guests as cruise lines can now decide if they can explorer the ports by themselves rather than only cruise line approved excursions and remaining only in the port area. Here’s what the CDC now says, “Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise passengers and crew that—if they are fully vaccinated—they may engage in self-guided or independent exploration during port stops, if they wear a mask while indoors. The cruise ship operator is additionally advised that foreign jurisdictions may have their own requirements.”

However, it is still recommended to prohibit any self-guided or independent exploration. There are still requirements that cruise lines must follow including making sure that tour companies follow certain rules to keep guests protected.

The guidance, which was updated today, May 12, 2021, does mostly stay the same, but the CDC is more acceptable with the fact that there will be fully vaccinated cruisers onboard.

CDC Website
Photo Credit: g0d4ather /

The guidelines which are part of the Operations Manual are part of the phases 2B and 3 framework that were originally released on May 5, 2021.

Hope Keeps Coming for Cruises

Even though there has been a lot of pressure on the CDC on a safe return of cruise operations by mid-summer, the agency is still trying to resolve the issues.

With the lawsuit starting today in federal court against the CDC by Florida, Alaska, and Texas, there could even be a chance of cruising resuming even earlier. How that plays out will never be straight forward so we’ll have to wait and see.

Carnival Cruise Line has also announced that it plans to restart cruises in July with just three ships out of Galveston and PortMiami with the possibility of a fourth depending on the situation in Alaska.

Norwegian Cruise Line has already detailed its safe return for vaccinated passengers, but Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have not yet detailed anything for U.S. departures.

Cruise Hive will continue to keep readers updated on this developing situation on the cruise restart in the United States.


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