One of the travel industry’s largest casualties of the pandemic, the cruise industry has suffered greatly over the past 15 months or so. Ever since cruises were first put on hold in March 2020, the industry has been battling to get them started again. The saga has seen threats of lawsuits against the CDC issued, as well prominent cruise lines warning that they would leave the US if the situation wasn’t resolved.
However, the end may well be in sight, as the CDC has released guidelines for test cruises this year. Here’s a recap of why cruises may be returning soon, and a look at the CDC’s newest guidelines.
Cruises Returning – What Travelers Should Know
Whilst some cruises around the world returned weeks ago, cruises on US waters have had to play the waiting game. However, recent updates to the latest phase of the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order mean that a return to cruising is much more achievable than it was when the new phase first came to light on April 2nd, 2021.
Updates to the framework clarified several points, such as:
- Allowing cruise lines to skip test voyages providing 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated
- Response times for test voyage applications reduced from 60 days to 5 days
- Relaxing rules for vaccinated passengers
- Allowing cruises to have multiple port stops
- Covid exposure protocols
A more comprehensive run-through of these points can be found here. With the cruise industry originally expected to jump through several tough hoops in order to be able to sail once more, the relaxation and clarification of many points of the conditional sail order should see more cruises on the seas this summer, with mid-July an achievable date for those who are fully compliant with the order.
Test Cruise Guidelines – Information For Travelers
The release of the test cruise guidelines yesterday means that passenger-filled cruises may be back on US waters sooner rather than later. Guidance released by the CDC provided technical instructions for “simulated voyages”, which will need to be followed in order for cruise ship operators to submit an approved COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate application, after which they will be permitted to sail with passengers once more.
The guidance includes:
- Eligibility and requirements for conducting a simulated (trial) voyage in preparation for restricted passenger voyages.
- Guidance for inspections of cruise ships conducted by CDC during simulated and restricted passenger voyages.
- Operational procedures to assist cruise ship operators in mitigating the risk of spreading COVID-19, including requirements and recommendations on prevention measures, surveillance for COVID-19 on board, laboratory testing, infection prevention and control, face mask use, social distancing, passenger interactive experiences, and embarkation and disembarkation procedures.
The full document detailing the technical instructions can be found here. The CDC’s website reads:
“With the issuance of these next two phases, cruise ship operators now have all the necessary requirements and recommendations they need to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages and apply for a COVID-19 conditional sailing certificate to begin sailing with restricted passenger voyages.”
Cruises haven’t been this close to restarting since the pandemic halted them in March; with cruise lines now only needing to follow the guidance and submit an application in order to sail in the US once more – or skip the process entirely with 98% of crew vaccinated and 95% of passengers vaccinated – we could well be in for a summer of cruising in the States, at long last.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories