On 5th May, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its final two guidance stages on the steps required to restart cruises from US ports.
In a detailed report, the CDC mapped out stricter restrictions that will provide a clear path for cruises to resume from July, 2021.
The CDC said that simulated voyages would be used to test a cruise operators’ plans and protocols from check-in and embarkation procedures to revised on board operations, disembarkation and follow up medical testing and monitoring for possible virus symptoms.
Cruise operators will need to submit their plans at least 30 days in advance of a planned sailing for simulated voyages; they must carry at least 10%t of the restricted passenger capacity of the ship; and they must limit the passengers to volunteers who understand that they are testing unproven processes.
All the volunteers need to be 18 years of age or older, agree to pre- and post-cruise testing, tracing, and report any symptoms or exposure to the virus.
Cruise ship operators now have all the necessary requirements and recommendations they need to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages, the CDC said in its technical instructions.
In the final phase of the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) issued in October, 2020, cruise ship operators with an approved COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate application will be allowed to sail with passengers following the requirements of the CSO. CDC also stressed that it did not anticipate releasing any additional documents.
Cruise operators will be allowed to bypass the simulated voyages if they prove that 98% of their crew are fully vaccinated and limit passengers to 95% being verified as fully vaccinated. However, the ship must still prepare the same plans and protocols to be reviewed by the CDC before any resumption of cruising will be permitted.
The CDC also provided a long list of rules impacting almost every aspect of the cruise and said that it retained the right to conduct cruise ship inspections without prior notice.
In its release, the CDC acknowledged that it is not possible for cruising to be a zero-risk activity for the spread of COVID-19. While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, CDC is committed to ensuring that cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern.
Later, CDC announced that all persons travelling in the US should wear a face mask and this included cruise ships, although it later relaxed thisrule under certain conditions and said that guests could go ashore providing they were vaccinated.