The CDC issued new guidance for cruise ships, giving the industry better direction on how ships can resume normal operations.
The CDC said that coronavirus vaccination efforts will be “critical” to resuming normal operations.
The new guidance provides cruises with the following six instructions:
- Increasing from weekly to daily the reporting frequency of COVID-19 cases and illnesses.
- Implementing routine testing of all crew based on each ship’s color status.
- Updating the color-coding system used to classify ships’ status with respect to COVID-19.
- Decreasing the time needed for a “red” ship to become “green” from 28 to 14 days based on the availability of onboard testing, routine screening testing protocols, and daily reporting.
- Creating planning materials for agreements that port authorities and local health authorities must approve to ensure cruise lines have the necessary infrastructure in place to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 on their ships to include healthcare capacity and housing to isolate infected people and quarantine those who are exposed.
- Establishing a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel.
The CDC said the next phase will include “simulated” voyages. The CDC recommends that all eligible personnel and travelers get vaccinated as soon as they can.
“Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult,” the CDC said in a statement. “While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, following the phases of the CSO will ensure cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern.”
Last week, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a trade group that advocates for a number of the top cruise line companies, called on the CDC to lift the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order. The CLIA wants a phased resumption of cruise operations from U.S. ports by the beginning of July.
The organization cited recent comments by President Joe Biden who said he is hopeful that the US can return to a state of normalcy by July 4.
The CLIA says that the pandemic has cost 300,000 jobs to its industry alone.
"Over the past eight months, a highly-controlled resumption of cruising has continued in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific—with nearly 400,000 passengers sailing to date in more than 10 major cruise markets. These voyages were successfully completed with industry-leading protocols that have effectively mitigated the spread of COVID-19. Additional sailings are planned in the Mediterranean and Caribbean later this spring and summer," said Kelly Craighead, CLIA's President and CEO.
The CLIA believes the ships can safely reopen.
"The cruise industry has adopted a high bar for resumption around the world with a multi-layered set of policies that is intended to be revised as conditions change. Our Members continue to follow this multi-layered approach to enhancing health and safety that has proven effective, making cruising one of the best and most adaptable choices for travel," she added.