Explained: What Cruise Lines Must Do To Sail Again
The big news in cruising is that the CDC has taken the step of letting the No Sail Order expire. But its not back to sailing just yet. Replacing the ban on sailing is a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.
That framework lays out in detail what the CDC requires cruise lines to do to sail again.
In short, the new policy gives cruise ships the ability to earn a green light to get back to sailing, but there are lots and we mean lots of hurdles they must overcome to do so. This new framework is anything but a free pass to get back to sea.
So what exactly do cruise lines need to do to show the CDC they are ready to sail again?
The main premise of the framework rests on four steps laid out for cruise lines to follow. If they can pass all of these, then cruise lines are set to return.
We dive into the requirements of each below
Testing/protection Of Crew Onboard Cruise Ships
The first step in the framework lays out rules that cruise lines must follow regarding the health of the crew onboard the ship.
Even after passengers were let off ships and cruises were suspended, there were still COVID cases on ships among the crew. There were also instances of lines not following CDC guidelines laid out in the previous No Sail Order, such as not following social distancing protocols and crew transfers that were unauthorized.
As well, each cruise line was required to submit a comprehensive response plan that outlined how the line would prevent, mitigate, and respond to the spread of COVID-19 on its ships. A number of lines including Norwegian, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and MSC have already completed this plan. However, some cruise lines arent shown on the CDC website for having submitted an approved plan.
According to the CDC, if a line is not shown on its list, it means the cruise line is not operating and does not plan to operate in U.S. waters during the initial phases of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order. That doesnt mean they wont quickly submit their plan and start the approval process, however.
Furthermore, in this step the CDC requires every crew member be tested on at least a weekly basis. Below are the full requirements to fulfill this step of the framework.
Requirements for protection of crew on ships:
Are They Requiring Vaccinations
Most lines say they’ll require vaccinations of passengers and crew, generally for guests 16 and older. Younger passengers who don’t have the jab may be subject to restrictions — check before you book. Even with a vaccination, you’ll likely have to show a negative COVID-19 test before boarding. Sailings from Florida are a different story, though. Vaccination requirements are running afoul of a new law there banning such mandates, and cruise lines are reacting in different ways .
Bans or not, it makes perfect sense that cruise lines are requiring inoculations. Ships like the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess were major coronavirus hotspots early in the pandemic, with passengers being locked in their staterooms as the disease spread quickly. Even before the pandemic, cruise ships had outbreaks of norovirus. Passengers aren’t the only people onboard a cruise, either. Remember that crew members live in cramped quarters and interact with hundreds of passengers daily.
Miami is the largest cruise port in the world, but Florida has banned vaccine mandates.
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Return Of Cruises Will Take Time
The timing of the CDC announcing its new framework to allow cruises to return and lifting the No Sail Order seemed odd given that it came on the same day as a record number of COVID cases were reported.
That said, if anyone had the impression that this was simply lifting the order and allowing cruises to get back to sailing like they used to do, thats simply not the case.
The CDC has laid out a myriad of requirements to return to sailing, and the process looks to take months to complete, especially given requirements that applications to sail be submitted months in advance of a return. Not only should that give time for cruise lines to implement and test their new procedures, but it will also allow more time for treatments and vaccines to further combat the virus cases.
So while cruises havent returned yet, it looks like there is a light at the end of the tunnel along with some close inspection by the CDC.
Planning Way Ahead With Flexibility
Given the surge of infections globally and shifting regulations, most cruise lines are selling future itineraries with flexible cancellation policies that allow travelers to roll their investment forward to a future cruise if they decide to cancel. And now space is getting tight for some popular itineraries because so many people who had planned to sail in 2020 have already rebooked for 2021 and beyond, says June Kleier, a travel adviser based in Scottsdale, Arizona. She adds that many received 125 percent credit on their future sailings and so they have been upgrading to nicer cabins.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published on September 1, 2020. It’s been updated to reflect new developments, including the CDCs changes to its rules for cruise lines.
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Cdc Advice For International Cruises
Some cruises have resumed in other regions around the world, such as in parts of Europe, Asia, the South Pacific as well as the Caribbean.
Last week, Royal Caribbean announced that COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for adult guests on its upcoming new sailings from the Bahamas and St. Maarten.
But the CDC currently recommends that “travelers avoid cruise travel worldwide.”
The health body advises people to avoid any travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide “because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high.
“Cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships.
“It is especially important that people with an increased risk of severe illness avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises,” the CDC warns.
For Guests On A Cancelled Sailing We’re Now Offering More Options
As a result of this change, were providing you with a 125% Future Cruise Credit to come back and sail with us by December 31, 2022, or one year from the original sailing date, whichever is later. Please re-book using your FCC by May 31, 2022. We will automatically issue you your Future Cruise Credit via email, so theres nothing for you to do!
Please know, taxes & fees and any RoyalUp upgrades will be automatically refunded. You can expect to see these in 45 days.
If you used a Future Cruise Credit to pay for your impacted sailing , youll receive a new Future Cruise Credit. This certificate will be for 125% of any new monies paid on this sailing, plus 100% of the value of your original redeemed credit, with an expiration date of May 31, 2022 and a sail by date of December 31, 2022, or one year from the original sailing date, whichever is later.
Guests booked on charter sailings are not eligible for offers related to the Global Suspension or Cruise with Confidence. Please refer back to the charter client for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you prefer the lower value in a full refund instead of the 125% Future Cruise Credit, were happy to process this for you.
Well then deactivate your Future Cruise Credit and process your refund to your original form of payment, which will include any non-refundable deposits.
You can expect to receive your refund 45 days after you submit your request.
Frequently Asked Questions
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What If Someone Tests Positive For Covid On A Ship
As long as all the proper measures are taken, the hope is cruise lines will have the ability to manage any cases and avoid a large outbreak across the ship. That means having cabins set aside for quarantines, contact-tracing procedures, and plans for how to debark sick passengers.
There have been a couple of examples of cruisers testing positive already: Two cases on Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Millennium, which launched June 6 from St. Maarten, and another two on Royal Caribbeans Adventure of the Seas, which launched on June 12 from Barbados. No known spread of the virus occurred in either incident.
Are Travel Protection Services Necessary For A Cruise
Given how new a return to big-ship cruising is, its a good idea to make sure you have a plan to get care if cruising overseas. While there will be a doctor and medical services aboard your ship, once you disembark, your care with them ends. While Global Rescues travel membership involves coordination with the medical staff on board, we essentially pick up where they leave off: at the port, where our experts will determine whatever your illness or injury your further plan for care and evacuation should you need it.
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Celebrity Cruises: Resumed Sailing June 26
Celebrity Cruises made history as being the first line to make a return to the United States. When Celebrity Edge departed Fort Lauderdale on June 26, it marked the first major ship to sail from the U.S. in roughly 470 days.
Other ships scheduled to sail from America in 2021 include Celebrity Equinox, Millennium, Summit, Reflection, and Apex.
In addition, ships have already returned to other parts of the world.
Will All Passengers Be Required To Get A Covid
Vaccinated passengers will not, but passengers who are unvaccinated will have to deal with certain protocols to board the ship, including COVID-19 testing at their own cost, using either the PCR or the rapid test. Again, this may change in the coming months as more ships take to the seas and the data informs what decisions the CDC and the cruise lines make.
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Whats The Entertainment Experience Going To Be Like On Board
Shows, buffets, casinos, rock-climbing walls theyll all still be there, just with limited capacity and certain social-distancing or masking-wearing requirements enforced for non-vaccinated passengers.
One blogger who was aboard Celebrity Edge reported being pleasantly surprised by the full gamut of activities being available to them: Everything from trivia sessions and game show-like challenges to speakers to dance classes and live music.
The Choice To Cancel Or Not Can Be Personal
Cruzely.com founder Tanner Callais told USA TODAY he thinks the decision is personal and based on one’s “risk tolerance.”
“Assuming you are otherwise healthy, then you may think it is fine to sail,” he continued. “There are risks, but we’ve seen that there are risks in any group of people, be it in a restaurant, theme park, or stadium. If you plan to be in close interaction with others, then cruises have the strongest requirements of any group setting I can think of.”
But, he added, others may want to cancel if they have underlying conditions, are unvaccinated or are in contact with others who may be at risk.
“Personally, I’ve taken several cruises since they’ve returned, but I’m holding off on sailing for a month or two until things have calmed down,” Callais said. “With daily contact with a family member that has health issues, I think there’s no harm in putting off travel until cases fall.”
The CDC advises people who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to avoid cruise travel and advises travelers to get a booster shot if eligible, Daigle said.
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The Us Breaks Its Single
With more than 580,000 cases, the United States shattered its own record for new daily coronavirus cases beating a milestone it already broke just the day before.
Thursdays count, according to The New York Timess database, toppled the 488,000 new cases on Wednesday, which was nearly double the highest numbers from last winter. The back-to-back record-breaking days are a growing sign of the viruss fast spread and come as the world enters its third year of the pandemic.
Hospitalizations and deaths, however, have not followed the same dramatic increase, further indication that the Omicron variant seems to be milder than Delta and causes fewer cases of severe illness. In the past two weeks, deaths are down by five percent, with a daily average of 1,221, while hospitalizations increased by just 15 percent to an average of 78,781 per day.
The high numbers are even more striking considering that experts associate the holiday season with major disturbances in testing and data reporting. The rise of at-home tests could also mean some cases arent making into the official count.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday raised its Covid-19 warning level for cruise ships to 4, the highest, and issued a blunt warning: Avoid cruise travel regardless of vaccination status.
When Will River Cruise Lines Resume Service
Amadeus: Amadeus resumed service in Europe for international passengers July 27, 2020
AmaWaterways: July 1, 2021, except Portugal Douro sailings, through June 15, 2021.
American Cruise Lines: ACL restarted in March 2021.
American Queen Steamboat Company: AQSC restarted March 21, 2021.
APT: June 1, 2021
Arena Travel: June 22, 2021
A-ROSA River Cruises: June 16 on the Douro, June 19 on the Danube and June 27 on the Rhine.
Avalon Waterways: July 2021 on the Seine, with Rhine, Danube, RhÃ´ne and Moselle to follow.
Captain Cook Cruises : Resumed operations in late 2020.
Century Cruises: Century Cruises restarted for Chinese passengers only on August 12, 2020.
CroisiEurope: June 7, 2021 on the Douro River.
Crystal River Cruises: August 29, 2021
Emerald Waterways: July 31, 2021, on the Douro River. Sailings on the Rhine restart August 19, followed by the Danube on August 30.
Fred. Olsen River Cruises: River voyages are canceled for the 2021 season.
Gate1 Travel: August 1, 2021
Grand Circle: Small ship adventures resume August 2021
Nicko: June 3 on the Douro.
Pandaw: Voyages in Myanmar cancelled until further notice.
Riviera Travel July 2, 2021, on the Douro.
Scenic: July 30, 2021 on the Douro.
St. Lawrence Cruise Lines:: July 8, 2021
Tauck: August 2021 with additional departures coming on-line in September 2021
Teeming River Cruises: TBA.
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Disney Cruise Line: Resume Sailing August 9
Disney suspended sailing along with the other major cruise lines. Originally it said that the suspension would last through the end of March 2020. Then it extended that date for all four of its ships to April 12, with trips resuming on April 13, 2020.
Now, according to a notice on its website Disney will resume sailing in August from Florida, with some U.K. cruises for the Disney Magic as well.
The first Disney cruise ship scheduled to return from the U.S. is the Dream on August 9, 2021, from Port Canaveral. It will sail on 3 and 4-night trips to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.
Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line
Original Update: The cruise line which is based out of West Palm Beach, Florida has remained silent through early 2021. Announced on April 9, the small cruise line will make a comeback with short cruises to the Bahamas starting on July 2, 2021.
Update 1: In a recent development from Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, Grand Classica has been approved by the CDC to operated a simulated voyage. The ship will depart on June 25 on a 2-night test cruise to stress test health protocols as per the CDC Conditional Sailing Order requirements.
Update 2: In early July, the cruise line altered its return to service date and its planned simulated cruise. The test cruise finally departed out of West Palm Beach, Florida on July 13 with cruises officially restarting from July 16.
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South Africa Says That It Has Passed Its Fourth Wave Of Cases And Counts Few Added Deaths
The South African government said Thursday that data from its health department suggested that the country had passed its Omicron peak without a major spike in deaths, offering cautious hope to other countries grappling with the variant.
The speed with which the Omicron-driven fourth wave rose, peaked and then declined has been staggering, said Fareed Abdullah of the South African Medical Research Council. Peak in four weeks and precipitous decline in another two. This Omicron wave is over in the city of Tshwane. It was a flash flood more than a wave. The rise in deaths over the period was small, and in the last week, officials said, marginal.
Some scientists were quick to forecast the same pattern elsewhere.
Well be in for a tough January, as cases will keep going up and peak, and then fall fast, said Ali Mokdad, a University of Washington epidemiologist who is a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist. While cases will still overwhelm hospitals, he said, he expects that the proportion of hospitalized cases will be lower than in earlier waves.
Omicron, bearing dozens of troubling mutations, was first identified in Botswana and South Africa in late November. It rapidly became dominant in South Africa, sending case counts skyrocketing to a pandemic peak averaging more than 23,000 cases a day by mid-December, according to the Our World in Data project at Oxford University.