Good news is coming for the cruise line industry and guests who are anxious to head back to sea – it looks like large ship cruises could resume sailing from US ports as early as July. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released a letter to cruise lines to clarify the Conditional Sailing Order that’s been in effect since October 2020.
Around the world, the cruise industry around has been at a virtual stand-still since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of last year and the CDC issued a No Sail Order for cruise ships in waters subject to US jurisdiction. After the Conditional Sailing Order went into effect, many cruise lines have been biding time with ships anchored in international waters awaiting a clear course to start sailing again.
That course may have just been revealed. The CDC’s recent letter provided five key clarifications that could make it easier for the cruise industry to resume operations.
- Vaccinations – Perhaps the biggest revelation is that if the ship can attest that 98% of its crew and 95% of its passengers are fully vaccinated, cruise lines can bypass the simulated voyages that were previously required. Lines may still opt to allow unvaccinated passengers but will be required to perform simulated voyages to go that route.
- Waiting Period – Previously, applications for simulated voyages faced a 60-day waiting period. The CDC’s new clarifications have cut that time down to five days, significantly speeding up the process.
- Testing – Fully vaccinated guests are now permitted to present results from a fast and simple antigen test prior to embarking instead of requiring the more involved PCR test.
- Multi-port agreements – The CDC clarified that cruise ship operators may enter into multi-port agreements so that ships could go to a different port that has the medical or housing capacity they might need in the event of an emergency.
- Quarantine – Finally, the CDC stated that local passengers (defined as being within driving distance to their embarkation port) would be allowed to quarantine at home if quarantining is necessary – so they won’t need to remain on-board or be sequestered to local quarantine housing.
It is important to note that each cruise line may set its own requirements, which could be more rigorous than the CDC’s guidance, and that specific countries and other foreign ports may have additional restrictions with which passengers should familiarize themselves. Naturally, cruise lines may adjust their itineraries or destinations as conditions and requirements change.
While cruising will likely look a lot different in the wake of the pandemic, the cruise industry has been working hard over the past year to improve safety and ensure an optimal guest experience. As pent-up demand drives travelers to book their next cruise, we’re expecting this summer is the start of a great comeback for the cruise industry. DeCurtis has a long history with cruise lines, creating innovative technical solutions that improve health, safety, security, operational efficiency and overall guest experience. To learn more, visit our website or contact us today!