The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended its Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) for cruises to Jan. 15 next year due to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
This order first took effect in November of last year to replace the CDC’s No Sail Order, which expired on Oct. 31, 2020.
The directive wasn’t an absolute green light to start sailing again: U.S. cruise companies had to meet strict sanitary and COVID-19 testing requirements in order to resume service, in a phased manner, after months of pandemic-related shutdowns.
The framework for a conditional sailing is presented in this 40-page document.
The extension of the order, announced on Monday (Oct. 25), includes minor changes to the directive, and once the order is lifted, it will shift to a "voluntary program,” working alongside operators to control COVID-19 numbers aboard ships, Reuters reports.
Extending the CSO was done “in the best interest of public health,” Capt. Aimee Treffiletti, head of the CDC's maritime unit, told USA Today.
"The pandemic isn't over. We've seen what the delta variant can do," Capt. Treffiletti told the newspaper. "Despite, you know, really what have been the best efforts of the cruise industry to provide a safer and healthier environment for crew, passengers and communities, COVID-19 has still been a challenge, particularly with the Delta variant."
The CSO order applies to foreign-flagged commercial passenger vessels with the capacity to carry 250 people operating or planning to operate for overnight stays for passengers or crew in U.S. waters.
In a statement on Monday, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said the changes show that the Biden Administration and CDC “recognize the cruise industry’s successful resumption of operations.”
“We look forward to demonstrating the industry’s continued leadership in this final phase of the CSO, and to carrying out a smooth transition” when the order ends on Jan. 15, 2022, CLIA said.
CLIA-member ocean-going cruise ships are sailing today with “some of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation of any industry,” the association noted.
“The health and safety of cruise passengers, crew members and destinations remain the industry’s highest priority,” CLIA added. “CLIA ocean-going cruise line members will continue to be guided by science and the principle of putting people first as we work with the Administration and the CDC to expand on our progress and build additional confidence in cruising as one of the safest vacation options, during the pandemic and beyond.”