Cruise ships will be allowed to resume sailing in U.S. waters starting Sunday — but it’ll be some time before passengers can actually board them again.
On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new sailing order detailing how cruise ships can restart operations in phases, specifically focused on preventing the spread of the coronavirus to passengers, crew members and communities where cruise ships travel.
The CDC’s “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order” doesn’t say exactly when passengers will be allowed to board cruise ships again, but it does give a “framework of actionable items” that cruise lines should follow, according to a press release about the new order.
“During the initial phases, cruise ship operators must demonstrate adherence to testing, quarantine and isolation, and social distancing requirements to protect crew members while they build the laboratory capacity needed to test crew and future passengers,” the press release said.
Then, cruise ship operators will have to prove their ability to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus by operating mock voyages with volunteers pretending to be passengers, the release said.
Cruise ships that meet certain requirements and attain proper certification will eventually be able to bring passengers onboard “in a manner that mitigates COVID-19 risk among passengers, crew members, and communities,” according to the release.
The conditional sailing order applies to cruise ships that can carry a minimum of 250 passengers and travel in U.S. waters.
“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement. “It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live.”
“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,” Redfield added.
The CDC issued the original No-Sail order on March 14 and made extensions to the order on April 9, July 16 and Sept. 30. The Sept. 30 order is set to expire on Saturday.