The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today issued details for cruise lines to begin test cruises and apply to restart commercial cruises to the United States. The announcement comes as officials from the CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today are meeting with cruise industry representatives to discuss restarting commercial cruises to the United States. The CDC said it plans to issue updated interim U.S. guidelines for managing waste aboard vessels for both passengers and crew later today. “The interim guidelines are based on current international best practices and industry standards,” the CDC said in a press release. The CDC said the updated guidelines will also be posted online tomorrow. The CDC,
It seems that the relaunch of American Cruise is now on a clearer path. Last Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued additional guidance for cruise ships conducting simulated voyages with volunteer passengers under conditional navigation certificate COVID-19.
With the release of these documents, cruise ship operators now have all the requirements and guidance they need to begin simulated cruises before resuming limited passenger service, the CDC said in a press release. Cruise lines can avoid these simulated trips altogether if 98% of passengers and 95% of crew are fully vaccinated with COVID-19 at least 14 days prior to departure.
And for the first time, the CDC has applied for a COVID-19 Conditional Shipping Certificate, which the agency says is the final step before the cruise resumes as a limited passenger service.
First industry response
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said Wednesday night that it was studying the new data from the CDC, as well as the world’s largest cruise line, Carnival Corporation.
Other travel industry sources told Travel Agent that the CDC’s action is a positive step, but some also noted that the cruise industry is still treated differently than other industries such as hotels and airlines.
While I’m pleased with the progress, especially on National Travel Advisor Day, it’s complicated and frankly still uneven compared to the guidance the CDC has provided to other businesses and even Americans in general, says Alex Sharp, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network. There is still a lot of work to be done.
Background on CDC
In a press release Wednesday, the CDC said it issued a conditional travel order (CTO) in October 2020 to prevent further spread of COVID-19 on and off cruise ships in populated areas to protect public health and safety.
The Decision establishes a staged approach to the resumption of passenger transport in order to reduce the risk of VOCID-19 spreading on board. But the file did not contain the details the cruise industry needed to make recovery plans.
The most recent CDC manual contains technical instructions for the swim simulation, including:
- Authorisation and requirements to perform a simulation flight (test flight) in preparation for restricted passenger flights.
- Guidelines for CDC inspections of simulated and restricted passenger travel.
- Operational procedures to assist cruise ship operators in reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread, including regulations and recommendations for preventive measures, COVID-19 on-board monitoring, laboratory testing, infection prevention and control, use of face masks, social distancing, interactive passenger experience, and embarkation and disembarkation procedures
In the final phase of OSC, cruise operators whose application for a conditional certificate COVID-19 has been approved may carry passengers in accordance with the requirements of OSC. The CDC has stated that it has no intention of releasing additional documents for the next phase. Instead, online documents are updated based on changes in quarantine, testing, color status, and lessons learned from swim simulations.
The Authority’s press release also states that it intends to work with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruise travel under the phased approach outlined in the CSO. This goal is consistent with the prospect of resuming passenger service in the U.S. by mid-summer, as desired by many major cruise lines and travelers.
I’ll add a little story: The CDC said they (and senior officials from other federal agencies) have been investigating the case for 12 years. April 2021 will meet twice a week with cruise line representatives to discuss and exchange information.
Regarding vaccines, the CDC press release states that COVD-19 vaccines play an important role in the safe resumption of passenger travel, but not all cruise ship operators have announced plans for mandatory vaccination of passengers. But as more people are fully vaccinated and more drugs become available, a phased approach will allow these advances to be incorporated into planning for the safe resumption of cruise travel, according to the CDC.
CDC recommends that all port workers and travelers (passengers and crew) be vaccinated against COVID-19 when the vaccine is available.
The CDC also acknowledged that cruises may not pose a risk for the spread of COVID-19. While cruises always carry some risk of transmission of COVID-19, the CDC is committed to ensuring that cruise ships are run in a manner that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly when new variants of COVID-19 emerge and are of concern.
See www.cdc.gov/coronavirus and www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise for CDC’s views on COVID-19 and cruise ships.
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