The CDC has provided five key updates on its new guidance to cruise lines regarding the Conditional Sailing Order in a statement to Cruise Industry News.
In its statement, the CDC said that the agency has been holding twice-weekly meetings with cruise line executives to hammer out the changes made to the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).
Based on these meetings, where participants asked questions and discussed the fastest path back to sailing without compromising safety, the CDC believes a resumption of US cruises by the summer is possible.
Caitlin Shockey, CDC spokesperson, provided five key clarifications regarding the Conditional Sailing Order.
First, cruise lines will now be able to skip previously mandatory simulated voyages if 98 percent of crew and 95 percent of passengers are fully vaccinated. This means cruise lines putting ships back into service will be able to move directly to revenue-generating operations, significantly reducing the timeframe for getting ships back into service.
Second, for those cruise lines that do need to conduct simulated voyages, the CDC will review and respond to such applications within 5 days instead of the previously scheduled 60-day timeframe. Again, this provides huge time savings to cruise lines looking to put in place plans to resume US cruises.
Third, the CDC will update the testing and quarantine requirements of the Conditional Sailing Order so that it aligns more closely with its domestic travel guidance for fully vaccinated Americans. This addresses a key criticism of the CSO levelled by Carnival Corporation. US cruise passengers will now no longer need to undergo NAAT testing, they may now take a simple viral test (NAA or antigen) upon embarkation. This testing change is for the restricted revenue sailings in Phase 4 of the CSO.
Fourth, the CDC clarified that cruise ship operators may now enter into a multi-port agreement (as opposed to a single port agreement) provided that relevant port and local health authorities are signatories to the agreement. Such multi-port agreements may be particularly suitable if one port has limited medical or housing capacity and a nearby port is able to supplement these capacities.
Fifth, the CDC clarified guidance on ventilation systems and the ability for local passengers to quarantine at home if they are within driving distance. Previously, the CSO called for cruise lines to set-up dedicated quarantine contingency plans for all passengers, with a full quarantine required of the entire passenger manifest in the event of a single case. Such requirements were inordinately expensive for cruise lines to implement.
In its statement, the CDC reiterated that it remains committed to the resumption of cruises from the US by mid-summer, provided cruise lines follow the new requirements of the CSO. This now aligns with the goals indicated by many major cruise lines.
The CDC said it looks forward to continued engagement with the industry and urges cruise lines to submit Phase 2A port agreements as soon as possible to maintain the timeline of passenger voyages by mid-July.