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Cruise holidays came to a halt on March 14 after being issued with a “no-sail” ban by the CDC. This restricted all cruise travel to and from the United States and was due to end 100 days after the ban came into force but was extended at the end of September, given the number of coronavirus outbreaks around the world.
Previously, the CDC stated that cruises “would likely spread the infection into US communities if passenger operations were to resume prematurely in the United States.”
However, yesterday, the order was lifted, allowing the industry to restart operations from November 1.
The framework is “conditional”, meaning the order is a first cautious step towards the resumption of cruising.
The statement, released by the agency, outlines the testing process that the cruise companies must follow to resume operations safely.
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 latter phase will include “mock voyages” with volunteers playing the role of passengers to test the cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate the risk of coronavirus.
Companies must show they adhere to testing, social distancing, quarantining and isolating requirements where needed.
After these two phases have been carried out, the agency will allow a slow return to cruise holidays.
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The order applies to cruise ships with the capacity to carry at least 250 passengers.
The CDC will help ships prepare and protect crew members during the initial phases by establishing a laboratory team dedicated to cruise ships to provide information and oversight for coronavirus testing, updating its colour-coded system to indicate ship status and updating its technical instructions.
CDC Director, Robert R. Redfield, said: “This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing.
“It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on shops and prevent passengers and crew from seeing outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live.
“CDC and the cruise industry have shared a 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.”
The new guidance will be in effect for cruises to and from ports in the US until November 1, 2021.
The industry has been devastated by the pandemic since the order was placed back in March.
It was then due to be lifted at the end of September but the CDC made the decision to further extend the ban to help stop the spread of the virus.
While the “no-sail” order was in effect, cruise lines found ways to keep passengers onboard healthy and create protocols in case of outbreaks.
Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean teamed up with a number of health professionals and industry experts to develop the “Healthy Sail Panel”.
The panel concluded that a safe return to cruising was possible, outlining 74 action points that would be undertaken to safely resume cruising.
The river cruise line AmaWaterways has set out a preliminary start date of December 1 while Carnival Cruise Line has a preliminary restart date of November 1.
Other lines including Cunard have proposed a preliminary restart date of Spring next year while Disney Cruise Line has set out a restart date of December 6.
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