Cruise ships may be back in business in the coming months after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Friday (Oct 30) that its "no sail" order will expire on Saturday (Oct 31).
It's not an immediate resumption of services, however. The CDC has presented an order that will allow - conditionally - a gradual resumption of cruises out of U.S. ports.
The CDC's "no sail' order, which prevented ships that carry at least 250 passengers in American waters from sailing, has been in effect since March.
In its place, the CDC has released a "Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships" that begins on Sunday, Nov. 1st.
Key to this document is the word "conditional," which is not to be taken lightly.
Indeed, this is not an absolute green light: the sanitary requirements and conditions that cruise lines will have to meet to resume service in the United States are, on the contrary, numerous and strict. They are presented in a 40-page document.
Before being authorized to restart operations with passengers in U.S. waters, cruise lines must obtain the “Conditional Sailing Certificate within the framework of COVID-19" (COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate), which will be issued by the CDC.
This certificate will confirm that companies meet the requirements and conditions of the CDC.
The resumption of services will take place in phases: the first focusing on crew members while cruise companies build a lab capacity to test crew and future passengers.
Cruise companies must show they can adhere to testing, social distancing, quarantining and isolating requirements when necessary.
The cruise industry has obviously welcomed the CDC's announcement.
CLIA said it looked forward to working with the CDC for a resumption of cruises from U.S. ports.
“Guided by recommendations from leading health and science experts, including the Healthy Sail Panel (HSP), our members are 100% committed to helping protect the health of their passengers, crews and communities served. They are ready to implement multiple layers of protocols informed by the latest scientific and medical knowledge," the association stated.
CLIA President Kelly Craighead added:
“The cruise industry and the CDC have a long history of working together in the interest of public health, and we look forward to continuing to build on this legacy to support the resumption of cruising from US ports. "
In a statement, Royal Caribbean welcomed the announcement as it paves the way for a return to service in the near future.
“While we look forward to welcoming our guests again, there is a lot to do until then, and we intend to take the time necessary to get it right. We still need to train our staff on the new procedures and protocols and operate a series of cruises in test mode, ”the company said.
The group also mentions that it continues to work closely with the CDC, as well as with the Healthy Sail Panel.
“We have full confidence in our ability to mitigate the risk of contamination and thus protect our employees, our guests and the communities we visit,” concludes Royal Caribbean.
At home & around the world
The Government of Canada continues to uphold its official warning to "avoid all cruise travel outside of Canada until further notice."
On Thurs. (Oct 29), Canada's Minister of Transport Marc Garneau announced that Canada is extending its ban on large cruise ships until Feb. 28, 2021.
Many cruise companies — including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Disney and others — have cancelled all cruises leaving from U.S. ports until at least December.
Cruising outside of the U.S. resumed over the summer in various degrees.
In August, the MSC Grandiosa became the first ship from the MSC Cruises fleet to welcome guests back in Italy under enhanced health and safety protocols.
Guests on this voyage were subject to strict screening procedures, which includes a temperature check, medical review of a health questionnaire and an antigen COVID-19 swab test for every guest prior to boarding.
Europe's latest second wave of COVID-19 has forced many regions back into lockdown, which could force the cruise industry to shut down again.
In early October, Singapore unveiled pleasure "cruises to nowhere" that operate at 50 per cent capacity, that don't visit any ports and are for Singapore residents only.
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