The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that cruises in and out of U.S. ports could restart in mid-July if certain conditions are met.
After more than a year of shutdowns because of the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC said cruises can resume if 98 percent of its crew members and 95 percent of a ship’s passengers are fully vaccinated.
In a letter to the cruise industry after meetings with cruise representatives twice a month over the past month, the CDC said it agrees with the stance that sailing on a cruise ship will never be a zero-risk activity.
CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey told US Today that the letter means cruise lines could begin passenger sailings from U.S. ports by mid-July, but that it was still reliant on them following the guidelines in the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing order. That order has been in place since October 2020 in place of a no-sail order enacted in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. The framework outlined requirements cruise lines would need to follow, including building up testing infrastructure and running simulated sailings before any line could sail with paying customers again.
The agency added that its timeline for the resumption of cruising is largely in line with that already announced by the major cruise companies. But authorization to resume operations doesn’t mean that the cruise lines will immediately return to the US as executives try to limit costs of moving ships and match operations to customer demand.
The CDC has yet to provide more information on just how cruise lines can get their simulated sailings up and running. At this point, the CDC has put the onus on the cruise lines to follow its latest technical guidance, which is a precursor to the simulated sailings.
On a conference call with analysts, Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain said the CDC’s announcement shows "a significant improvement in the extent and the quality of our dialogue with the CDC."
"We believe that this communication really helps us to see a clear and achievable pathway forward to a safe and healthy cruising in the near future," he said, adding that there are still questions the CDC needs to answer about the cruise line restrictions. But Fain did not rule out a mid-July start date.
Royal Caribben earlier announced it would offer new 7-night itineraries out of Nassau, the Bahamas, starting in June.
— from Cruiseable news services