CDC Says Cruising Could Start by Mid-July
On Wednesday evening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter to cruise industry leaders announcing that cruising could start by mid-July in U.S. waters. This new announcement comes out on the heels of twice-weekly meetings currently being held between the CDC and cruise industry executives.
"We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the CSO’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities," Aimee Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC’s COVID-19 response within its Global Mitigation Task Force for COVID-19, said in the letter.
In a statement provided to USA TODAY, a spokesperson for the CDC provided more details regarding the timeline. The organization stated that, “Cruises could begin passenger voyages from the United States in mid-July, depending on cruise lines' pace and compliance with the CDC's Framework for Conditional Sailing Order...CDC looks forward to continued engagement with the industry and urges cruise lines to submit Phase 2A port agreements as soon as possible to maintain the timeline of passenger voyages by mid-July.”
The letter also offers additional guidance from the CDC based on feedback from the cruise industry and states that it will expect cruise lines to meet its requirements before sailing can resume. Five new clarifications were introduced in response to the CDC’s guidance which was issued earlier this month:
- Ships can bypass the required simulated test voyages carrying volunteers and jump to sailings with paying passengers if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.
- CDC will review and respond to applications from cruise lines for simulated voyages within 5 days, a review previously expected to take 60 days.
- CDC will update its testing and quarantine requirements for passengers and crew on sailings with paying passengers to align with the CDC's guidance for fully vaccinated people. So, for example, instead of taking a PCR lab test ahead of boarding vaccinated passengers can take a rapid antigen test upon embarkation.
- CDC has clarified that cruise ship operators may enter into a "multi-port agreement" rather than a single port agreement as long as all port and local authorities sign the agreement.
- The CDC has clarified guidance on quarantine guidelines for passengers who may be exposed to or contract COVID-19.
Cruiseline.com reached out to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings regarding the CDC's letter and a potential mid-Summer restart of cruising and received the following statement from a spokesperson, "Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is currently actively engaging in further discussions with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with a shared goal of cruising from U.S. ports this summer and is encouraged by the ongoing constructive dialogue that resulted in recent meaningful modifications to previously issued technical guidelines and the incorporation of vaccines."
Over the past few weeks, the CDC has received pressure from state leaders and the cruise industry to update the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order. CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) called on the CDC to lift the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order and allow for plans to begin to be made for a phased resumption of cruise operations from United States ports by the beginning of July. Governors from Florida and Alaska joined forces in a lawsuit against the CDC in an effort to resume cruising operations in the United States. The suit challenges the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order and petitions the court to “set aside the CDC’s unlawful actions and hold that cruises should be allowed to operate with reasonable safety protocols.” Senators from Florida and Alaska introduced a bill to override the CSO and to require the CDC to provide new guidance for cruise lines to resume sailing operations in the United States.
While there are still many obstacles in place for cruise lines, this is a positive step in the right direction for the resumption of cruising in the United States this Summer.
Sources: USA TODAY
This is a breaking news story. We will continue to update as new information becomes available.
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