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CDC updates cruise line sail order, pushes forward simulated sailings

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made some updates to its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, after five months of cruise lines working to comply with the original orders released in October 2020, which were designed to allow sailing from US ports once again.

The Caribbean and The Bahamas, where some islands depend heavily on cruise passenger spend, have also languished awaiting some solid timeline from the CDC that would indicate when it will allow cruise travel once again.

However, this latest update, released April 2, reveals nothing about when cruise travel could begin.

Instead, the CDC’s addition to its conditional sail order seeks to ensure ports and health authorities where those ports are located within the US are on the same page and opens the door for simulated voyages to begin.

“This document is intended to assist cruise ship operators in documenting the approval of US port and local health authorities as a condition of receiving or retaining controlled-free pratique (permission to have dealings with a port after a quarantine) to conduct one or more simulated voyages or restricted passenger voyages under a COVID-19 conditional sailing certificate,” the CDC document states.

“This includes documenting the approval of US port and local health authorities in developing medical care, housing and port components (including a vaccination component) of an agreement as per the terms of CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.”

Nassau Cruise Port Limited (NCP) told this paper earlier this year that these cruise simulations could take place at Nassau’s cruise port, where the cruise lines and the port would be able to test their new health and safety protocols to guard against COVID-19 transmission.

Cruise lines have been working toward these practice cruises with volunteer passengers, but none have taken place as yet.

The update is a small step forward for cruise lines like Carnival Cruise Line (CCL), which have decided to wait out the CDC and sail from US ports when they open.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean International (RCI), which like other cruise lines has had no business since March 2020, has moved its business to home ports outside of the US in order to begin sailing this summer.

CCL is holding on to hope that the CDC lifts its conditional sail order by June, according to CCL President Christine Duffy, who shunned the idea of home porting outside the US, calling CCL “America’s cruise line” in a video released last week.

Duffy also said in the video that the cruise line has not made a decision on whether or not it would make vaccinations mandatory for cruise passengers.

“We have not made any decision about vaccines being a requirement,” Duffy said.

“We have not made a decision here at Carnival about our June sailings. In fact, we could be given the opportunity to start cruising from the US.

“We currently do not have any plans to move our ships away from their US home ports. I have always said Carnival Cruise Line is America’s cruise line. We sail from 14 US home ports. Fifty percent of our itineraries are less than seven-day sailings and a significant number of our guests drive to their Carnival Cruise vacation.”

While hopeful that cruising could begin this summer, Duffy also maintained that the timing for restart in the US “continues to be uncertain”, especially given that the CDC continues to contend that cruises continue to be high risk in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While not suggesting that cruise lines make vaccination of passengers a necessity for cruise travel, the CDC stated it highly recommends that travelers are vaccinated.

“CDC recommends that all eligible port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them,” the CDC stated. 

RCI is requiring all adult passengers boarding its ships home porting outside of the US to be fully vaccinated and children to present a negative COVID-19 test.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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