In the next 2-3 days, the CDC will make an important decision that could lift up the entire industry. We’ve heard positive noises from the cruise industry for a while now, and the consensus would be that cruising would be allowed again, and the No-Sail-Order would be lifted.
The order can be lifted in three different ways:
- The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency
- The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations.
- The order expires on October 31, 2020, and is not renewed.
The first is unlikely, COVID-19 remains a public health emergency, and this will likely remain so until an effective vaccine is released and implemented worldwide.
The second option is the most likely one; Dr. Redfield, the CDC director, has been making the announcements so far at the end of each expiry date.
The third option is possible, but unlikely. It would leave the cruise industry with too many unknowns.
Can we sail straight away?
In theory, yes, you could get on a cruise ship when the order is lifted and sail away. In reality, it will take the cruise lines a significant amount of time before they would be able to set sail. Several items would have to be ticked off the list.
Cruise ships have been at anchor or even cold layup for more than six months. This means that maintenance and cleanliness will have suffered. Ships need to be fully inspected and cleaned before guests can come onboard.
Before any maintenance and cleaning can be done, the crew will have to be brought to the vessels. And that is easier said than done. The crew will likely then undertake COVID-19 testing and a two-week quarantine period onboard.
Frank Del Rio, the NCL CEO, has said that it could take up to 60-days to get a ship back to operational status:
“It takes time to stand up a ship, it is not turning on a light switch, the main obstacle is the ‘No Sail’ order, It is impossible to operate in November, we are looking at post-November as a potential start date if everything else comes along.”
One positive note is that we have been seeing reports of most cruise lines undertaking action to have the crew ready and prepared to fly out on a moment’s notice.
What to expect when we can go onboard?
The cruise lines have taken every measure possible to ensure cruising can be done safely.
COVID testing will be carried out for all passengers. This could be done relatively quickly with the new rapid tests that have come out. It would take approximately 15-20 minutes to get a result, which is approximately 90% accurate.
You will have space. Ships will be sailing with considerably fewer numbers than before and will certainly not be full. Social distancing is the keyword here, and companies will be doing as much as possible to achieve this.
Cruise lines have gone into overdrive when it comes to using technology to their advantage. This includes, for example, wearables, which you can use for all your transactions onboard; however, the cruise lines can also monitor crowds onboard and adjust the opening of outlets accordingly.
When will we be able to sail and what could go wrong?
Due to the reasons mentioned above, it would be unreasonable to expect sailings in November from the big three cruise companies. Smaller lines might be able to open up sooner. December sailings are available online from Carnival, NCL, and Royal Caribbean.
Dr Redfield has been under pressure from several government representatives, including Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, not to be influenced or pressured by others to re-open the cruise industry in the United States.
A contradictory statement from the Representative as he is actively pressuring the CDC not to open up the Cruise industry.
Whatever happens, the No-Sail-Order has had its time, and the cruise lines have taken extreme measures to ensure safe sailing onboard. It’s about time the CDC puts trust in an industry that has no interest whatsoever in having any outbreak onboard.