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What Passengers Need To Know About Cruise Ships Returning To The U.S.

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Cruising from the United States has officially been given the green light by the CDC. The no sail order was lifted on October 30th, giving the U.S. cruise industry permission to resume operations. 

Before cruise ships return to the seas, many changes and systems will have to be put into place over the next 60 days that will allow for cruise lines to return safely.

For cruise ships to start sailing, they'll have to be rewarded with a conditional sail certificate from the CDC that takes 60 days for approval. Given the current timeline, we can estimate large cruise lines including Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian to resume sailings in early January, 2021. 

Here's everything passengers need to know about cruise ships returning to the U.S. and the big changes to expect onboard. 

americans board royal caribbean allure of the seas

Under the new conditional sail order, cruise lines must meet the minimum safety standards and COVID-19 prevention protocols set out by the CDC.

Length of Cruises

Passengers who love long cruises are out of luck. The CDC has limited all itineraries to a maximum of 7 days. The CDC can also shorten or lengthen the maximum at anytime based on public health. 

Cruise Lines Must Notify Passengers of CDC Warning

All cruise lines must notify passengers prior to booking their reservation of any ‘CDC travel advisory, warning or recommendation' relating to cruise travel.  

The warning must also include the risk of a cruise being immediately ended if a certain threshold of COVID-19 is found on board. 

This includes the possibility of cruise ships having to immediately return to their port of embarkation and travelers facing delays or restrictions on returning home.  

All Passengers and Crew Will Be Tested For COVID-19 

Under the new conditional sail order, all passengers will be tested for COVID-19 on the day of embarkation and disembarkation following all CDC technical requirements. 

american passengers disembark two carnival cruise ships

All Passengers and Crew Will Be Screened For COVID-19 

All passengers and crew will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 on each embarkation day. Any passenger or crew member showing symptoms of COVID-19 will be denied boarding the ship. 

Norwegian Epic Cruise Ship in Bahamas

Passengers and Crew Showing Any Symptoms Of COVID-19 Onboard Will Be Tested

If any passenger or crew member shows symptoms of COVID-19 at anytime during the sailing, they will be immediately tested and isolated if required. Close contacts of the passenger that is showing symptoms may also be tested. 

Transparency With CDC 

All cruise lines will report all laboratory COVID-19 test results to the CDC. 

passengers board msc ship

Hygiene Onboard Cruise Ships

Cruise lines must meet all hygiene measures for passengers and crew following the guidelines of the CDC including:

  • hand hygiene
  • face coverings
  • ship sanitation
  • social distancing 

What this means for passengers: Masks will be required in all public settings as per the CDC recommendation which reads the “CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings, like on public and mass transportation, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people.”

Carnival breeze cruise ship in Cozumel mexico

Meal Service & Entertainment

All cruise lines must provide meal service and entertainments venues that meet all social distancing guidelines set out by the CDC. 

Over the course of the next 60 days, cruise lines will also be running simulation cruises to ensure they are following all guidelines set out by the CDC in order to be issued their ‘conditional sailing certificate'.

Sources: PDF – CDC Conditional Sailing Order

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Originally Published: November 2nd, 2020

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


Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

Thank you for keeping us all up to date on these developments! Have you heard of any cruise lines accepting volunteer passengers for their trial runs?

Kashlee Kucheran

Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

No not yet ;) We've heard it will be friends and family