On October 31, 2020, the No Sail Order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expired. The order was put in place on March 14, 2020 as an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 and was extended by the CDC three times.
The CDC replaced the No Sail Order with the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, a collection of guidelines giving cruise ship operators a phased approach to safely resume cruise ship passenger operations amid the pandemic. In more plain terms, the framework gives cruise lines guidance to follow to start cruising again safely.
This does not mean that cruises will begin again immediately. Cruise lines must complete each phase in the plan and then apply for a Conditional Sailing Certificate. The order says that the initial phases will consist of “testing and additional safeguards for crew members” to ensure the ships have “adequate health and safety protections” for the crew “while these cruise ship operators build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers.”
In the next phase, cruise lines must conduct simulated voyages using volunteer passengers to test their ability to mitigate the risks of COVID-19. There are many activities that the simulated voyages must test, including embarkation and disembarkation procedures; onboard activities like dining and entertainment; private island shore excursions; transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew; and quarantine of passengers and nonessential crew. The ships must also meet CDC standards for hand hygiene, face coverings and social distancing. Everything must be documented and submitted to the CDC after the simulated voyage.
Cruise lines can then apply for a Conditional Safety Certificate and follow the rules that go along with receiving that certificate, most notably the rule that cruise lines may not sail or even offer an itinerary longer than seven days.
CLIA, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, is hopeful that this new order gives the cruise industry a solid path forward.
“With enhanced measures in place, and with the continued guidance of leading experts in health and science as well as the CDC, we are confident that a resumption of cruising in the U.S. is possible to support the economic recovery while maintaining a focus on effective and science-based measures to protect public health,” said Kelly Craighead, the president and CEO of CLIA.
Travel insights from Andrea Sedlacek, editor of The Compass