The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released instructions for cruise lines to navigate what should the final hurdle before they get the green light to sale from US ports once again.
The next two phases of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) for cruise lines requires them to conduct simulated voyages with volunteer passengers, before they can move to restricted sailings with paying passengers.
The CDC is calling for cruise ship operators to request approval to conduct simulated voyages at least 30 days before the sail date. The duration of those cruises are expected to be between two to seven days.
“With the issuance of these next two phases, cruise ship operators now have all the necessary requirements and recommendations they need to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages and apply for a COVID-19 conditional sailing certificate to begin sailing with restricted passenger voyages,” the CDC stated.
“The CDC may adjust these requirements and recommendations based on public health considerations and other factors.”
While the CDC has implemented the simulated voyage as a barrier to the return to sailing, it gave cruise lines the option to forego the simulated voyage and submit to ensuring a cruise ship almost completely filled with only vaccinated passengers and crew, with the documentation to prove it.
“In lieu of conducting a simulated voyage, cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may sign and submit to the CDC an attestation under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 that 98 percent of their crew are fully vaccinated and submit to the CDC a clear and specific vaccination plan and timeline to limit cruise ship sailings to 95 percent of passengers who have been verified by the cruise ship operator as fully vaccinated prior to sailing,” the CDC stated.
The Bahamas is preparing to act as a home port for the return to sailing of Royal Caribbean International’s Adventure of the Seas ship. The passengers leaving from Nassau’s cruise port beginning June 12 will all have to be fully vaccinated if they are 18 or older. Minors will have to present a negative COVID-19 test at the time of boarding.
The CDC has stated specifically that cruise lines will not be able to count these cruises as simulations under the CSO, but will be able to document the findings from the sailing for a report to the CDC.
“Activities conducted on voyages that occurred outside of US waters during the period of the no sail order (NSO) and the CSO that were not conducted as part of a CDC-approved simulated voyage, do not count towards the activities that must be simulated on a simulated voyage,” noted the CDC.
“However, cruise ship operators may incorporate best practices and lessons learned from these voyages as part of the simulation and in the after-action report submitted to the CDC.”
The CDC is calling for volunteer passengers to present proof of full vaccination or “present written documentation from a healthcare provider or self-certified statement that the volunteer passenger has no medical conditions that would place the volunteer at high risk for severe COVID-19 as determined through CDC guidance”.