Cruise ships can sail in U.S. waters beginning Sunday, as long as they follow new coronavirus protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC announced Friday that its no-sail order would not be extended and would expire on October 31 — nearly eight months after it was first issued on March 14.
The CDC also issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order” that introduces a “phased approach” for cruise ships with a capacity of at least 250 passengers to resume operations while adhering to a high standard of health and safety.
“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield in a press release. “It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live.”
The update is a step forward for cruise loyalists and the cruise lines that have been in financial ruin since the pandemic effectively shut down operations in March. But some of the larger cruise lines may not take advantage of the lifting of restrictions — at least for the rest of 2020.
Of the major U.S. cruise lines, Royal Caribbean (RCL) and Norwegian (NCLH) have suspended the majority of sailings through the remainder of the year. Sailings in 2020 are possible on Carnival (CCL) and Holland American with destinations to Antarctica, Australia, Asia, the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, New Zealand, and South America.
During the rollout to full-scale operations, cruise ship operators will be held to a strict regimen of rules that adhere to “testing, quarantine and isolation, and social distancing” for crews prior to passengers returning to ships.
Subsequent phases will incorporate volunteer participation in mock voyages to pressure test crew capabilities to mitigate COVID-19 risk.
“CDC and the cruise industry have a shared goal to protect crew, passengers, and communities,” Redfield said, “and will continue to work together to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise ships begin sailing with passengers.”