Cruise ships could resume sailing from U.S. ports by July as long at least 95% of passengers and 98% of crew members are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to new guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On April 28, the CDC sent a letter to cruise companies updating its Framework for Conditional Sailing order, which was originally issued in October 2020. The update eases a previous rule requiring cruise lines to perform test voyages before paying customers can board. It also loosens some testing and quarantine requirements.
Here are the major updates covered in the new guidance:
- Cruise lines can bypass test voyages if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated
- Applications for test voyages will now be processed in as little as five days, as opposed to the 60-day wait stated in the previous guidance
- The CDC will soon release a guidance relaxing travel restrictions for fully vaccinated cruise passengers
- Cruise lines are now allowed to sign multi-port agreements with other countries and U.S. territories
- The CDC has established guidelines for passengers who are exposed to COVID-19 during a cruise
While these changes mean the cruise industry may soon be able to resume operations after being shutdown for more than a year, cruising will look different when it returns.
For example, the CDC’s vaccination requirements mean that children under the age 16 will not be able to sail with many cruise lines, as there is not yet an approved vaccine for that age group. In addition, passengers will still have to wear masks, and they may also have to get tested for COVID-19 before boarding.
The new cruising guidelines were announced days after Alaska joined a lawsuit Florida filed against the CDC over the agency’s mandate barring cruises from U.S. ports. Alaska has reportedly lost around $3 billion due to the shutdown, while Florida has lost approximately $3.2 billion.