There is now an approved path for getting cruise ships and cruise travel going again from the United States.
On October 30, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approved a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, replacing its previous No Sail Order.
Cruise lines have been in a voluntary suspension of operations from U.S. ports since March 2020. Since that time, the biggest cruise lines in the world joined together to form the Healthy Sail Panel, made up of leading experts in health and science. They have worked together to develop measures to further strengthen public health protocols and mitigate the risk of COVID-19 for passengers, crew and destinations.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 95% of global ocean-going cruise capacity, helped outline what the CDC’s announcement means for the industry and for travelers.
CLIA president and CEO Kelly Craighead provided the following statement on October 30, 2020:
“While we look forward to reviewing the new Order in detail, we expect much of the Healthy Sail Panel’s recommendations, which were adopted by CLIA’s Global Board of Directors earlier this month, have been considered and will serve as an important foundation. The cruise industry and the CDC have a long track record of working together in the interest of public health, and we look forward to continuing to build upon this legacy to support the resumption of cruising from U.S. ports. 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.”
The U.S. Return to Sail Plan
CLIA and its members support a phased-in, highly controlled return to passenger service related to U.S. ports. Protocols support the health and safety of passengers, crew, and the communities visited.
Building on the core elements recently announced, CLIA cruise line members who are covered by the previous No Sail Order issued by the CDC have agreed to adopt the recommendations of the Healthy Sail Panel, which were submitted to the CDC in September 2020. These recommendations —74 in all — represent a comprehensive approach from booking to disembarkation and are intended to support the initial phase of resumption in the United States by the end of 2020.
Here is a breakdown of the plan:
- Keep COVID-19 off ships
Take aggressive measures to prevent COVID-19 from entering a ship through robust education, screening and testing of both crew and guests prior to embarkation. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Testing all crew between 5 days and 24 hours prior to leaving their home location to join the ship, quarantining for 7 days on board upon arrival, and testing/receiving another negative test before beginning their duties.
- Daily symptom screening of crew.
- Testing of all guests between 5 days and 24 hours before boarding and receiving a negative result before coming on board.
- Pre-boarding health screening and temperatures taken.
- Denial of boarding for anyone unwilling to take part in health protocols, or for anyone who has received a positive COVID-19 test or in the last 14 days been in close contact with anyone with a confirmed infection.
- Mitigate the risk of infection
Keep COVID-19 off ships. Reduce transmission via air management (ventilation) strategies and sanitation practices. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Enhanced sanitation practices in high- and low-touch areas of the ship, terminal and cruise-line owned and operated destinations.
- Increased usage of hand sanitizers and hand washing with soap and water.
- Increased staff training.
- Upgraded HVAC systems.
- Establish an effective mobilization plan
Implement detailed plans for addressing any positive infection onboard, including contingencies for onboard treatment and evacuation. This includes, but is not limited to:
- A cruise line’s medical treatment plan should be responsive to the current understanding of COVID-19 and optimal treatment protocols, as well as the specific clinical needs of each patient.
- Cruise operators should have established relationships with onshore medical teams that can provide telemedicine consultations in the event of a more serious COVID-19 case.
- Cruise operators should use CDC guidance on social distancing.
- Cruise operators should employ a variety of contract tracing methodologies to ensure all COVID-19 cases are identified as quickly as possible and should be as transparent as possible with guests about what information is being collected and how it will be used for contact tracing.
- Cruise operators should designate certain cabins as isolation and quarantine spaces and should provide guidelines on when someone should be isolated or quarantined.
- All debarkation scenarios need to be considered if a guest, crew or close contact has a positive COVID-19 case.
- A communications plan for all scenarios needs to be developed.
- Protect destinations
Closely control shore excursions. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Receive approval from local government to visit a port, and have parameters in place to determine its safety as well as its local testing capacity and COVID-19 mitigation practices.
- Agreements for safe passage of COVID-19 infected individuals and their close contacts to travel home.
- In the start-up phase, utilize private, cruise line-owned and operated destinations or ports where there can be tight control of the onshore experience.
- In the start-up phase, only use cruise line-sponsored or verified excursions.
- Enhance protection for crew members
Create the conditions for a safer working and living environment for these valuable members of the cruise operator’s team. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Manage population density of crew areas of the ship.
- Provide crew with additional PPE appropriate to their job type.
- Training on protocols to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and empowerment of crew to take action to ensure protocols are being followed by fellow crew members and guests.
In CLIA’s October 30, 2020 statement, the organization noted that CLIA members have gradually resumed sailing in Europe and other parts of the world with success. This has been accomplished through a variety of means, including:
- 100% testing for passengers and crew prior to boarding
- Mask wearing
- Physical distancing requirements
- Highly controlled shore excursions
- …and many additional measures, similar to what is reflected on the Conditional Sail Order
The decision to travel is a personal one. Cruise Specialists continues to monitor all coronavirus updates from our travel partners. Our Cruise Consultants can outline current health and safety updates from our cruise line partners, as well as their current offerings. Get to know our Cruise Consultants here and contact us if you have any questions!