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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging cruise lines to test their waste management systems on their own, before they sail, for the presence of the pathogen Legionella. The CDC’s advice, issued in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on Jan. 20, comes in response to the outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease, which infected more than one hundred passengers on a 2013 cruise by the Caribbean Fantasy  and is believed to have been a result of contaminated water on board. According to the CDC, the outbreak was the largest ever caused by a cruise ship.

April 1, 2018 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today issued guidance to cruise lines that transport passengers from the United States to inform them of the precautions they must take when they operate ships that have returned from the Caribbean. CDC is urging cruise lines to consider operating a passenger test voyage before embarking on regular trips to the Caribbean to ensure that they are prepared to identify and manage patients with infectious diseases.

The cruise industry is one step closer to reopening in the U.S., as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on May 5 that it has set requirements for test cruises with volunteer passengers to ensure ships can sail without spreading COVID-19 infection.

With the release of these documents, cruise ship operators now have all the requirements and guidance needed to begin simulated voyages before resuming limited passenger travel, the CDC said in a press release. In addition, this version includes an application for a COVID-19 conditional navigation certificate, which is the final step before passenger travel is restricted.

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The CDC has confirmed that it is willing to work with the cruise industry to allow cruises in the United States this summer.

The CDC intends to work with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruises in accordance with the phased approach outlined in the CSO, the press release said. This goal is consistent with the prospect of resuming passenger service in the U.S. by mid-summer, as raised by many cruise ship operators and frequent flyers.

However, the CDC also reiterated its statement of 29. April: cruise ships can omit the navigation simulation and move directly to passenger navigation if 98% of the crew and 95% of the passengers are fully vaccinated.

In lieu of a test trip, cruise line officials may, at their discretion, sign and submit to CDC a statement … that 98 percent of the crew is fully vaccinated and submit to CDC a clear and specific vaccination plan and schedule to limit cruise travel to 95 percent of passengers certified as fully vaccinated by the cruise ship operator prior to departure, according to the guidelines.

When cruise lines organize test cruises, they don’t expect it to be difficult to find volunteers. Royal Caribbean, for example, said tens of thousands of people have already participated.

Loyal cruisers are eager to return to the high seas after the ships were banned from sailing in March 2020.

Conditional airworthiness decision
step-by-step framework (Photo via CDC)

Regarding CDC requirements for simulated travel:

– Cruise operators must inform willing passengers in writing that they are participating in health and safety protocols that have not been tested and proven in the United States to simulate travel on a cruise ship, and that cruising during a pandemic is an inherently risky activity.

– Cruise lines must enter into written agreements with all U.S. ports and local health departments where they dock to establish procedures for medical care. This includes evacuation and medical transport to hospitals, as well as placement in land-based facilities for isolation and quarantine, if necessary.

– The cruise line must ensure that all passenger volunteers, who must be at least 18 years of age, provide proof of full vaccination, a written statement from a medical provider, or a self-declaration that the volunteer does not have a medical condition that would place him or her at high risk of severe COVID-19.

– The cruise line must meet standards for hand hygiene, the use of masks, the social distance between passengers and crew, and hygiene on the ship. Vessels adapt dining and entertainment facilities to allow social distance during the simulated voyage.

– Simulated trips should be two to seven days with one overnight stay, with a minimum of three days with two overnight stays recommended.

– The independent or autonomous searching of passengers during stopovers is prohibited. Only passengers and crew from the same ship may participate in shore excursions. And cruise lines must ensure that all excursion operators adhere to social distancing, mask wearing and other COVID-19 health measures during the excursion.

– Screening of all passengers on the day of embarkation and disembarkation with results on the same day.

Starting April 12, 2021, the CDC and senior officials from other federal agencies will meet twice a week with cruise line representatives. The purpose was to exchange information on the efficacy of the vaccine and other scientific developments following the issuance of the conditional landing order on the 31st. The month of October has been issued. Participants also had the opportunity to ask operational questions about the technical instructions.

The CDC recommends that all port workers, passengers and crew members be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they are able to do so.

The CDC recognizes that cruises may not pose zero risk COVID-19, it said in a press release. 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.

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