Special for November 7th Cruising and the U.S. CDC
On October 30th the CDC announced it will not extend the “Do Not Sail” order past October 31st. This makes cruise ships free to sail in American waters and enter U.S. ports on November 1st.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)has adopted COVID-19 protocols to help clear a path forward. The industry body that represents the world’s major cruise lines, has announced their “mandatory core elements” of the new set of health regulations for cruising in American waters. However the CDC seems to have other ideas which will be much more stringent.
Hurray! The “No Sail Order” Was Lifted or Was It?
On November 1st, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control lifted its long-standing “No-Sail Order” in favor of a new policy intended, they say, to enable the safe resumption of cruise ship operations from U.S. homeports in the near future.
However after a couple of days reading the 40-page order, Cruise ship senior management have a lot more questions than real solutions. The new policy requires a number of procedures like test simulated voyages, new accreditation procedures and enhanced testing policies. It also restricts cruising for longer than seven days and restricts where ships can sail.
The CDCs complicated restart as well as accreditation procedure has actually produced a variety of questions for cruise companies and would be cruisers. Also, though we do not yet know the specific responses to these concerns we can make some informed assumptions.
In a written statement a CDC representative indicated that he did not have additional information concerning their simulated voyages procedures. Additionally details concerning limited sailings will be provided in future technical directives and orders but are not sure as to how soon that will be.
Here’s what we know. All the major lines, consisting of Carnival, Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, MSC Cruises, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and others, have actually canceled the remainder of 2020 cruises after the CDC’s new statement. Internationally the CLIA revealed its member cruise lines which includes the majority of the world’s companies would suspend cruises till January 1, 2021.
Theoretically, if lines can have their crews certified as COVID-19-free over the next month or two and get the needed ships into position, they could be ready to begin the required simulated sailings the CDC requires for the new certification by the end of 2020.
Right now the difficulty is thus far nobody understands the length of time the required simulated voyage test will take. It could be over and finished within a day, or it might need weeks. Additionally they may be called upon to submit extensive reports after the simulated voyages and also need pre-clearance to perform these simulated sailings.
Furthermore in order for a ship to sail with passengers they will have to be tested at embarkation and again at disembarkation. Additionally the CDC will require that no passengers leave the ship until after all COVID-negative PCR tests have been received, which could take some time probably requiring turn-around to take an additional day. Nobody knows what the disembarkation process will look like yet.
Crew members will be required to test weekly, and all incoming crew members will have to meet quarantine times and procedures as defined by the CDC further delaying the staffing process. Most cruise lines are already doing something similar with their deck and engine officers currently onboard ships. They still don’t know who will conduct the tests. The CDC states that the cruise operator must conduct all these tests onboard and then transfer them to an as yet unspecified shoreside lab. Cruise lines have to notify the CDC a full week before doing these tests, and the CDC must approve the laboratory selected.
Also ships returning to U.S. waters after being away for something like two weeks will require a full recertification procedure before embarking any passengers.
“This ‘Framework of Conditional Sailing’ lays out a pathway – a phased, deliberate and intentional pathway – toward resuming passenger services but only when it is safe, when they can assure health and when they are responsible with respects of needs of crew, passengers and port communities,” Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, told USA TODAY recently.
The bottom line appears to be a continuation of the “No Sail Order” but with a different name. Even so, Royal Caribbean is planning a series of short cruises to CocoCay, their private island in the Bahamas as soon as possible.