The U.S. Coast Guard has announced it will no longer be enforcing the use of masks on public maritime vessels, which includes cruise ships and port terminals. This followed a judge’s ruling that the CDC mask order, which applied to all persons traveling on ships into, within, or out of the United States and to all persons at US ports, had been vacated.
For now, federal agencies are looking at the court’s decision. At least one cruise port, the Port of Boston, has announced it will not be enforcing masks anymore at its facilities. Whether others will follow that example is becoming more likely.
U.S. Coast Guard Will Not Enforce Mask Wearing
As it investigates a recent judge ruling banning a mask mandate in cruise terminals and other travel hubs, the United States Coast Guard will no longer enforce the mask mandate. This means that guests, by law, will not be forced to wear a mask as they board the ship.
In a safety bulletin, the Coast Guard said the following: “On April 18, 2022, the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, vacated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandate for mask wear in airports, train stations, and other transportation hubs as well as on airplanes, buses, trains, and most other public conveyances in the United States, including vessels.”
“Per this ruling, the CDC has declared that the mandate is no longer in effect. Federal agencies are reviewing the court’s decision. In the interim the Coast Guard will not enforce the directives requiring mask use on public transportation and in transportation hubs.”
While the TSA enforces federal rules in airport terminals, the U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for all ports and port facilities, directly affecting whether or not a port needs to mandate masks.
At Least One Port No Longer Requires Masks
While most cruise lines are quick to point out they decide what happens onboard, guests must adhere to federal rules on face-coverings in the terminals of ports of call.
Massport, the organization behind Logan Airport and Flynn Cruise Port in Boston, said masks are no longer mandatory in their terminals: “Masks are optional. The TSA no longer requires face masks at the airport, cruise terminal, and on Massport-operated buses.”
As the ruling came out on April 19, Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador John Heald said that guests will still be required to wear a mask in the terminals. However, this stance from the cruise line may soon change due to the recent Coast Guard Statement.
The question is if major homeports such as Port Canaveral, PortMiami, and Port Everglades will follow the example set by Massport and take action on the Coast Guard’s announcement.
Port Everglades said in a previously released statement it follows the policies set out by the Coast Guard, which makes it more likely it will be dropping the mask mandate in its cruise terminals.
Are Masks Still Required Onboard Cruise Ships?
The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle will have little to no effect on the policies that are in place onboard cruise ships. There are several reasons for this.
The cruise lines already do not require masks in most situations. Only non-vaccinated guests, which in most cases are children, are required to wear masks on the vast majority of cruise ships.
Second, the cruise companies have opted into the CDC’s voluntary COVID-19 program for cruise ships. As Cruise Hive reported yesterday, cruise lines and the CDC still have the right to require guests to follow guidelines onboard in the name of safety. If this includes wearing a mask in the case of an outbreak, guests will need to comply.
Masks have been a hot topic for many people in the last two years and have prevented many from booking a cruise until the mask mandates have been vacated entirely.
However, while it is a step in that direction, the fact is that the statement from the U.S. Coast Guard and the TSA simply makes traveling to the ships a little more comfortable for those who do not want to wear a mask.