It’s been a long year for people who enjoy taking cruises but have been unable to cruise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, finally, some good news has appeared on the horizon: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is committed to allowing cruise ships to resume passenger operations in mid-summer.
“We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities,” Aimee Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC’s COVID-19 response within its Global Mitigation Task Force, wrote in a letter to the cruise industry, NBC Miami reports. “We remain committed to the resumption of passenger operations in the United States following the requirements in the Conditional Sailing Order by mid-summer, which aligns with the goals announced by many major cruise lines.”
In a more specific statement about the letter, spokesperson Caitlin Shockey told USA Today that “cruises could begin passenger voyages from the United States in mid-July, depending on cruise lines’ pace and compliance with the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order.”
A Prolonged Halt
The CDC shut down sailing last March when several coronavirus outbreaks were tied to ships worldwide. Then, last October, the CDC issued a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for cruise ships operating or seeking to operate in U.S. waters that established guidelines for how cruise lines will be able to safely resume passenger operations with an emphasis on preventing the further spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships and from cruise ships into communities.
Earlier this month, the CDC released a new phase of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order. However, the CDC still recommends “avoiding travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high.”
Although the new framework explains how cruise lines should respond in the event of COVID-19 cases, the agency has — so far — not lifted its no-sail order.
Importantly, in her letter, Treffiletti outlined some clarifications to the April 2 guidelines, NBC Miami reports. Specifically, ships may be allowed to sail without conducting the required practice voyage if 98 percent of the crew and 95 percent of the passengers have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The news from the CDC is both welcome and encouraging. “Our technical experts are currently reviewing the information and its implications, but we are optimistic that these clarifications show positive progression — and, importantly, a demonstrated commitment to constructive dialogue, which is key to restarting cruising as we have seen with other governments and health authorities around the world,” Bari Golin-Blaugrund, vice president for strategic communications for trade group Cruise Lines International Association, told USA Today in a statement.
What’s more, Golin-Blaugrund also told USA Today that the letter from the CDC shows that the cruise industry’s collective voice has been heard, for which they “are very grateful.” If you love taking a cruise, be sure to check out all of our cruise coverage here.