Friday afternoon, the Center for Disease Control finally released long-awaited guidelines that are the first step toward restarting the cruise industry from U.S. ports.

What the new manual says

(Photo courtesy of CDC)

More than a year after cruise ships discontinued service – and nearly six months after the CDC issued a conditional sailing ban in October – it appears the industry will finally take steps to resume service.

However, the new guidelines, which were published on Friday evening, do not really allow ships to set sail again. It focuses mainly on agreements between individual cruise lines and the ports from which they intend to operate. The new requirements in the guidelines include.

  • Cruise lines must work with every port in the US to agree on protocols. Cruise lines must negotiate individually, not collectively, and the agreements must list the ships the line hopes will leave the particular port with which it is negotiating.
  • Port agreements must specify the number of ships permitted to enter the port, the specific days and times, and the maximum number of passengers allowed during these hours.
  • If more than one line and/or vessel is operating out of the port, it should be considered whether the simultaneous use of different vessels could lead to an over-supply of necessary medicines or endanger the ability of the local health services to manage a potential crisis.
  • While the guide does not appear to specifically mandate vaccination of passengers, it recommends that all affected port workers and travelers (passengers and crew) receive the vaccine when it is available.
  • Specific plans should be drawn up to avoid passenger congestion when boarding and disembarking.

It is interesting to note that the plan does not allow embarking and disembarking passengers to use the same closed or semi-closed areas (including bridges, waiting areas in the terminal and check-in areas) during the same 12-hour period. This may require a thorough overhaul of the system by which one group of passengers leaves the ship and another enters, including the use of separate aisles.

PortMiami (courtesy of Pixabay/Zopalik).

Is there anything missing from the instructions? The much talked about simulated voyages, where each ship would have its own health and safety protocols – and their application by the crew – were put to the test. Apparently they will begin during phase 3 of the plans, although there is no indication of exactly when that phase might begin.

Ultimately, the latest CDC guidance provides new guidance, but no further clarity on exactly when departures from U.S. ports can resume.

If North American cruisers want to sail this summer, they can fly to Nassau, St. John’s, and then fly back to the United States. St. Maarten, Bermuda or Cyprus with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises or Crystal Cruises.

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