CDC Cruise Reopening Guidelines and Which Lines are Sailing Soon
What will cruising look like when it resumes?
Photo Credit: @witytravels on Instagram
The latest framework for sailing again came out on October 30, 2020 as the CDC's "no sail order" has expired. The "no sail order" had been in effect since March. These new guidelines go into effect November 1, 2020. The CDC has released a 40 page document around this but today I will go over the highlights. You can read the full pdf here: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/index.html. The CDC wants to make sure that cruising resumes safely. They want to ensure that the spread of COVID-19 does not happen to the crew and passengers once cruising resumes. The order announces a phased approach to keep everyone safe.
Keeping cruise crew members safe after resuming
The first phase is centered on crew members. Not all cruise operators have the proper labs build for testing all on board but there still needs to be procedures in place to keep the crew safe. Some cruise operators will do passenger free voyages, some will slowly phase in passengers on their way to full capacity.
Now the CDC guidelines just apply to the United States of America. For US cruisers November 1st will be the first day that cruisers can sail again. In Europe they loosened the restrictions a bit earlier.
In August, Switzerland based MSC Cruises made news by becoming the first major cruise line to reopen. The MSC Grandiosa sailed the Mediterranean without a COVID-19 outbreak (at least through September).
Costa Cruises, based out of Italy (though owned by Miami based Carnival Corporation) also returned their ships, Costa Deliziosa and Costa Diadema to the water.
The CDC considers a cruise line's ability to test their crew for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 to be an important part to resume passenger operations. The CDC will even give out certificates for ships that meet certain requirements.
Photo Credit: "DSC01166, The Rotterdam and Celebrity Cruise Ship Century"by jimg944 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/21203533@N00/236458175
Why did cruising get shut down?
On January 20, 2020, The Diamond Princess (from Princess Cruise Lines owned by Carnival Corporation) left Yokohama Japan. On January 25th a passenger was taken off of the ship with and was later confirmed to have COVID-19. All 3,711 passengers and crew were quarantined when the ship returned to Yokohama. 712 (19.2%) were confirmed to have COVID-19. 37 people needed intensive care, and 9 died.
On March 13, the leading industry trade group, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), voluntarily suspended cruise operations and the CDC issued their no sail decree.
Framework for conditional sailing
The new guidelines in place are there to make sure there is no further introduction or spread of the virus. The rules are there for any cruise ship in U.S. waters or for any ship planning to return to the United States. Upon request from the CDC, all cruise lines must provide records such as manifest, communications, and health records.
Cruise line operators can use on-ship laboratories or third party auditors, but these third parties can not interfere with the CDC's ability to interview crew or oversee laboratory specimen collection.
Port and local health authority agreements
To obtain a pratique (permission granted to a ship to have dealings with a port) a ship must document approval of all U.S. port and local authorities where the ship plans to dock or make port. This written approval must include: a plan for evacuation to onshore hospitals, an onshore housing agreement for isolation and quarantine of COVID-19 cases and close contacts, and the agreement between the ship and the port that ensures that the port's health responses resources are not overburdened.
Cruise line reopening dates
Just doing a quick scan it looks like some cruise lines in the U.S. will be ready to sail soon.
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) will sail to the Bahamas on December 4th, 2020. The Navigator of the Seas will cruise out of Miami.
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) will cruise to the Bahamas from Miami on December 11th, 2020 on the Norwegian Sky.
Also on December 11th, the Norwegian Pearl (NCL) will cruise to Harvest Caye & Costa Maya from Miami.
On December 13th, 2020 The Explorer of the Seas will sail to the Eastern Caribbean with stops in the Bahamas and Labadee, Haiti).
January 4th, 2021 is when the Carnival Conquest will cruise the Western Caribbean (stopping in Cozumel).
January 4th, 2021 is when the Carnival Liberty will return to the Bahamas for a 4 day cruise out of Port Canaveral. The Carnival Conquest heads to the Bahamas out of Miami on January 8th.
Photo credit: @witytravels on Instagram
If you don't want to wait until next month, you can fly to China to cruise in the month of November. The Spectrum of the Seas from Royal Caribbean Cruise Line (RCCL) is setting sail on November 27th 2020 from Hong Kong China. This is the "Best of Japan" cruise and is stopping in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, and Nagasaki Japan.
So I hope we provided a lot of information around the frame work for cruises to resume and for those craving their next cruise, some ideas on which cruise they want to take first. We look forward to getting back on a cruise ship, as they provide tremendous value for the price and we hope you do too! Let us know if you are ready to cruise, and if so, to where @witytravels on Twitter. Until next time, remember that adventure is out there. And we plan to find it!