Published on : Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Cruise lines will be required to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocol for COVID-19 on ships through Jan. 15.
Capt. Aimee Treffiletti, who leads the CDC’s maritime unit, said that the agency came to the decision to temporarily extend its framework for Conditional Sailing Order in the best interest of public health.
The CDC extended the order which was released nearly one year ago when the agency’s No Sail Order was about to expire.
As of Monday, the order applies to foreign-flagged commercial passenger vessels with the capacity to carry 250 people operating or planning to operate for overnight stays for passengers or crew in U.S. waters.
Since the issuance of the CSO on Oct 30, 2020, cruise lines, with CDC assistance, have developed and implemented strong health and safety protocols to manage COVID-19 and resumed passenger operations, the CDC said Monday in a release.
Cruise Lines International Association, the leading trade organization in the industry, said that the changes to the CSO show that the Biden administration and the CDC recognize the industry’s successful resumption of operations.
Cruising has successfully resumed in the United States, with leading public health measures that have enabled their ocean-going cruise line members to effectively mitigate the risk of COVID-19 amongst cruise passengers, crew members and destinations.
The temporary extension of the order Monday incorporated recommendations and requirements listed in the CDC’s Technical Instructions and COVID-19 Operations Manual for cruise ships that have come over time related to protocol, such as masking and testing.
Foreign-flagged ships typically operate on international itineraries far from U.S. shores.
Outbreaks are more likely to require emergency evacuations while at sea which can burden U.S. Coast Guard and other emergency medical response resources, Daigle said.
Additionally, stopping in foreign ports increases the risk of introducing COVID-19 variants on board.
What was the Conditional Sailing Order’s initial purpose?
The order, announced last October, was created by the CDC to lay out a phased approach for the safe resumption of cruising in U.S. waters.
Cruise lines were offered two paths for restarting operations: They were allowed to either implement a vaccination requirement (at least 95% of crew and passengers vaccinated) and sail immediately with paying passengers or to conduct simulation sailings with volunteer passengers to test onboard COVID-19 protocol and earn CDC approval to sail with paying passengers.
In late June, more than a year after the industry shut down, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge became the first cruise ship to sail in U.S. waters with paying passengers since March 2020.
Has COVID-19 protocol required on cruises by CDC order worked?
The protocol in place on ships to mitigate COVID-19 “absolutely has” worked to make cruise ships safer as the world faces a global pandemic.
While there still remains some risk of transmission of COVID-19 on board cruise ships, robust protocol including testing and masking, among other elements, have reduced the risk of the pandemic’s onboard spread.
As of Monday, 47 cruise ships were sailing with paying passengers in U.S. waters following CDC guidance, CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey said.
The CDC issued a “Level 3: High Level of COVID-19” notice warning on August 20 for cruise travel that remained in place Monday.