The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has laid out new conditions that could see cruise companies sailing ships out of U.S. ports by July.
In a letter issued to industry leaders on Wednesday (April 28), the CDC said ships can resume passenger sailings, without test cruises, if they confirmed that 98 per cent of crew members and 95 per cent of passengers are fully vaccinated.
The CDC then updated its guidance for cruise ships on April 2, outlining technical instructions while stressing the need for COVID-19 vaccinations as a necessary step before passenger sailings can resume out of U.S. ports.
Cruise companies and trade groups have long criticized the CDC’s lack of consideration its own initiatives for safe sailing, and long-drawn timelines, as they fight for a summer U.S. restart.
The industry has been pressuring the Biden administration for details on a path to restarting U.S. operations and the State of Florida even went as far as suing the CDC over the suspension.
As ships cannot currently sail in U.S. waters, several cruise lines have, instead, unveiled summer itineraries at ports across the Caribbean and Europe.
Maybe by July?
But now, CDC officials say ships may be able to restart out of U.S. ports by “mid-July” after operations have been suspended for more than a year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Under its original CSO, cruise operators were required to conduct test cruises and apply for a certificate at least 60 days before offering cruises to passengers.
In its letter on Wednesday, the CDC said it would review and respond to applications for simulated voyages within five days.
“This puts cruise ships closer to open-water sailing sooner,” the CDC wrote.
The health agency added that while cruising “will never be a zero-risk activity,” it is “committed” to getting passenger operations in the U.S. up and running by midsummer.
Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain welcomed the CDC’s updated policy in an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Thursday.
“We’re really very pleased and very excited because it really does set forth a pathway that we think is achievable, practical and safe,” Mr. Fain said.
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