A lot has happened in the past few days regarding the cruise industry and what it will look like for the near future in the United States. Let’s break it down.
As we reported last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “no-sail” order expired Saturday and was replaced by a “Conditional Sailing Order.” Since then, the cruise industry has willingly suspended all cruises until 2021.
Bari Golin-Blaugrund, vice president of strategic communications for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). “As we work to operationalize a path forward, our members have agreed to extend our existing suspension of U.S. operations through December 31.”
CLIA is the industry’s leading trade group. Their members include 95% of the world’s oceangoing cruise lines. Every CLIA member has committed to implementing “stringent measures to address COVID-19 safety, including 100% testing of passengers and crew, expanded onboard medical capabilities, and trial sailings, among many others.” said Golin-Blaugrund.
The CDC’s new Conditional Sailing Order will incorporate a phased approach designed to get passengers back on cruise ships safely and responsibly.
“This ‘Framework of Conditional Sailing’ lays out a pathway – a phased, deliberate and intentional pathway – toward resuming passenger services but only when it is safe, when (the cruise industry) can assure health and when they are responsible with respects of needs of crew passengers and port communities,” Said Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.
Last week, Virgin Voyages made the announcement that their maiden passenger voyage would be delayed until January 2021.
Prior to CLIA’s announcement that all members will voluntarily suspend sailing through the end of 2020, Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. all announced that they would be canceling sailings until 2021.
Getting Back to Sailing
Now that guidelines are starting to emerge for cruise lines to get sailing again, it is a smart decision for them to push off jumpstarting passenger sailings until the next calendar year. This gives them time to create and test the new protocols and procedures they will need to put in place to create a safe cruising environment and follow the regulations set forth.
In addition to prepping new policies and procedures, the new guidelines set forth by the CDC in the Conditional Sailing Order require test sailings prior to passenger sailings in order to set and be on the same page with all of the new standars and protocols.
In September, the cruise industry announced mandatory health and safety changes in preparation for a return to cruising. CLIA and its member cruise lines adopted more extensive mandatory health protocols for vessels that can carry 250 or more passengers, which include crew and passenger testing, mask wearing, enhanced cruise ship ventilation, response procedures and shore excursion protocols.
In October, CLIA made the call that all its member ships would adopt all 74 of the panel’s recommendations to healthily resume cruising in U.S. waters.
In addition, CLIA worked with Royal Caribbean and Norwegian’s “Healthy Sail Panel,” as well as other cruise lines and health experts and examined sailings with new protocols in place in Europe.
Related: Set Sail Safely Act Introduced
The new Condition Sailing order, which replaced the No-Sail order states that cruise ships will be able to resume sailing this week BUT, they have to do so with no passengers. These initial sailings will instead be simulations of what it will look like when passengers do return complete with new safety protocols, limited capacity areas, signage and more.
A negative COVID-19 test will be required for passengers to board. Crews will be tested frequently and specific procedures and areas will be dedicated to anyone who falls ill while sailing including quarantine areas to limit the spread.
Masks will also be required in areas where social distancing cannot be adhered to such as narrow hallways.
Changes to seating and entertainment as well as boarding and the muster drill are also expected.
Some cruises have already restarted with new COVID-19 protocols in Asia and Europe. Ocean cruises have yet to restart in U.S. waters and have been suspended since mid-March under the no-sail order.
Related: Set Sail Safely Act Introduced
Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.