Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas is slated to return to the Port of Baltimore for sails beginning April 2021. For now, all lines have suspended cruises until January. Image: Royal Caribbean

Cruise “No Sail” Order Lifted, But American Cruises Won’t Resume

The CDC has issued new guidelines for the cruise industry, lifting the No Sail order that has been in effect since March 14. But cruises won’t be sailing out of Baltimore or Norfolk (or any other U.S. ports) at least until 2021.

The CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order introduces phases for cruise ship passenger operations to prevent further spread of COVID-19—both on cruise ships and from cruise ships into communities.

The Framework applies to ships with the capacity to carry at least 250 passengers in U.S. waters. CDC says recent outbreaks on cruise ships overseas are evidence that cruise ship travel “facilitates and amplifies transmission of COVID-19, even when ships sail at reduced passenger capacities.”

The first phases include no passengers at all. Cruise ship operators must show they can follow testing, quarantine and isolation requirements to protect crew members, while building the lab capacity needed to test crew and future passengers.

Next, ships will conduct mock voyages with volunteers playing the role of passengers, testing cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk.

CDC says it will help ships prepare and protect crew members during the initial phases by establishing a lab team dedicated to cruise ships, updating its ship status color-coding system, and updating its cruise ship surveillance capabilities.

“CDC and the cruise industry have a shared goal to protect crew, passengers, and communities and will continue to work together to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise ships begin sailing with passengers,” says CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D.

The cruise ship industry, for its part, calls the Framework an “important step” towards returning ships to service from U.S. ports.

“Our member lines are 100 percent committed to helping to protect the health of our guests, our crew and the communities we serve, and are prepared to implement multiple layers of protocols informed by the latest scientific and medical knowledge,” said Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

In response to the new guidelines, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises all announced they would not resume operations before December 31, 2020.

CDC has more information about COVID-19 and cruise ships at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/cruise-ship/what-cdc-is-doing.html and www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise.

-Meg Walburn Viviano