Europeans are largely still banned from entering the USA and flights are crumbling to a halt, but one industry in travel just got a major boost. Despite surging cases of covid-19 in the USA, the CDC’s “no sail order” banning cruise ships from US waters is expected to expire over the weekend, allowing the industry to resume operations in US waters.
USA Expires No Sail Order For Cruise Ships
During the height of the global pandemic, the United States CDC – Centers for Disease Control – issued a no sail order for cruises. Vessels were banned from operating in US waters after a spate of incidents involving covid-19 super spread on board.
“This order ceases operations of cruise ships in waters in which the United States may exert jurisdiction and requires that they develop comprehensive, detailed operational plans approved by CDC and the USCG to address the COVID-19 pandemic through maritime focused solutions, including a fully implementable response plan with limited reliance on state, local, and federal government support.”Original CDC ‘No Sail’ Order
But now, some 7 months on, and despite surging US covid-19 case levels above any previous point in the history of the pandemic, the CDC will expire its no sail order, and move to a phased reopening of cruise ships. For cruise fans, the buffet line is already forming.
As part of the new ‘conditional sailing order’ from the CDC, which will last at least one year from a start date of November 1st, ships will need to prove their covid-19 security before passenger journeys may begin again.
The CDC ‘conditional order’ report is a fascinating read into the numerous super spreader events which lead to the industry being shut down in US waters. Canada, for its part, has chosen to keep the ban on cruise ships until 2021 at the earliest. So what is the CDC asking for, as part of its conditional approval?
- masks in public spaces on board, when social distancing isn’t possible.
- on board lab facilities to assist in testing and quarantining of passengers.
- regular crew testing before, during and after sail.
During the 7 months of downtime, the CDC and the cruise industry have collaborated on a variety of measures to isolate, quarantine and test guests regularly. Cruise lines resumed over the summer in Europe and Asia, and despite covid-19 outbreaks on the first journeys back at sea, a variety of new measures have lead to successful sails with no known covid-19 transmission on board.
Still, the timing is questionable. Presidential proclamations still ban travelers from a long list of countries currently experiencing lower rates of infection than the United States, and cruises were already known to be among the most rapid super spreader environments on the planet.
Unlike airplanes, which benefit from sophisticated air filtration systems, cruises create a plethora of environments where air is shared in indoor spaces without robust filters. Many cruise lines plan to retrofit ships to new air systems in the future, but it certainly doesn’t solve today’s problems.
Initial US journeys are expected to return to popular Mexican, Caribbean and Central American ports, and Carnival Cruises has already begun restaffing efforts to get people back on board ASAP. Due to the nature of the new changes, first voyages are unlikely to begin before late December.
With the order being conditional, any spreader events could quickly shut things back down. Though it’s not entirely clear how long the initial trial period of on board safety measures will last, it’s more than likely you’ll find a bunch of brightly dressed cruise tourists ready to set sail at a port near you, sometime soon, perhaps even before the end of the year.