The CDC lifted the No-Sail Order for cruise ships today, putting an end to a more than seven-month ban on large cruise ship operations in U.S. waters. The agency established a series of requirements that cruise lines must meet to prevent the spread of COVID-19, paving the way for passenger operations to resume.
The agency issued a Conditional Sailing Order, detailing a phased approach to restart service to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spreading to U.S. passengers, crew and communities.
The initial phase will consist of additional testing and safeguards for crew members and will ensure that cruise ship operators have adequate health and safety protections for the crew.
Subsequent stages will include simulated voyages to test the cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, certification of ships that meet specific requirements, and a phased return to cruise passenger ships in a manner that CDC believes would mitigate the risk of COVID-19 to U.S. passengers, crew and communities.
The no-sail order took effect on March 14 and was extended on April 15, July 16, and September 30, continuing through October 31.
- Once a ship is certified to sail, cruise voyages shall be limited to seven days or less, which, according to the CDC, can be shortened or lengthened based on public health considerations.
- Prior to embarkation, all passengers and crew shall be tested for COVID-19 and screened for signs and symptoms or known COVID-19 exposure. Ships are to deny boarding to any person who is suspected of having COVID-19 or is an identified contact of a confirmed or suspected case.
- Cruise ship operators shall test all passengers and crew on the day of embarkation and disembarkation, and test results must be available prior to embarkation and departure for final destinations after disembarkation.
- Cruise ship operators shall meet standards for hand hygiene, face coverings and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation, as required by the CDC. Protocols include modifying meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing. Any passenger or crew who reports illness consistent with COVID-19 during the voyage should be screened, along with any close contacts.
- Cruise ship operators shall enter into medical care agreements with onshore medical care entities to allow for the evacuation to onshore hospitals of any passengers and crew in need of care.
- All cruise ships seeking certification shall first undertake simulated voyages with volunteer passengers, that include such activities as: vessel embarkation and disembarkation at ports; on board activities, including dinner and entertainment; private island shore excursions, if any are planned; transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for COVID-19, from cabins to isolation rooms, and quarantine for all remaining passengers and non-essential crew.
- Once a simulated voyage is completed and the cruise ship operator reports its results, the CDC will determine whether the ship should receive a Conditional Sailing Certificate or whether it should modify its practices or participate in additional simulated voyages.
Source: Travel Weekly