On March 14, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a No Sail Order which brought cruise travel to a dramatic halt. On October 30, 2020, the CDC lifted the No Sale Order and instituted what the CDC calls the “Framework for Resuming Safe and Responsible Cruise Passenger Operations.”
This framework set forth measures that the cruise lines must meet before being clear to resume cruise operations. Below are new measures:
- The CDC starts to establish lab testing of all crew members on ships in U.S. waters.
- Simulated voyages are conducted with “volunteers” to assess health, safety, and operational protocols.
- A Certification process.
- A Return to Service.
While this does not appear to be monumental task, the vagueness or lack of CDC technical instructions still has cruise lines cancelling cruises, as of this writing, through the end of May and some through July. On 16 March, 64 ships have attained a Green Color-Coding status and one is Provisionally Green. To get a Green status, the ship must the 2 following requirements:
- CDC has finished the review of the cruise line’s plans.
- The cruise line has returned an acknowledgement attesting that their No Sail Order response plan is complete and accurate.
As the owner of Accessible Cruise and Travel, I get upset every time I receive an email explaining that a cruise line has cancelled cruises for, yet another month. I feel frustrated with the cruise lines, but they cannot even start their simulated cruise until the CDC provides them with the guidelines for the simulated cruises and as of mid February the CDC has not issued those guidelines.
Will the COVID Vaccine help
According to “Our World Data”, as of March 19th, 23.63% of the US population has received at least one dose of a vaccine and 13.21% are fully vaccinated. The New York Times also shows that the number of new cases went from 300,619 on January 11th to 58,856 on March 17th which is a 19.5% decline and the numbers of deaths per day from COVID has dropped by over 30% since January 27th.
If the number of new COVID cases and deaths continue to decline as the number of people being vaccinated increase, it would seem that the vaccine will play a significant role in getting people back to sailing. According to a Cruise Critic survey, 77% of the respondents said that a COVID vaccine would help them in making a decision about taking a cruise. However, according to CDC spokesperson who spoke to the Washington post told them that vaccines were not a solution on their own.
So, the big question is, will cruises sail this year and the answer is not clear. The cruise lines still must meet many tough requirements from the CDC which the CDC has yet to publish. Some small cruise ships have started cruising with passengers. These are ships that carry less than 250 passengers such as American Cruise Lines Independence which has sailed from Florida to Charleston. According to Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), large cruise ships have been sailing in Europe since last summer as well as in Singapore and Royal Caribbean will start sailings from Israel.
As vaccines begin to become more available, they may be required to board a cruise ship. Royal Caribbean is requiring passengers sailing out of Israel to be fully vaccinated. Tom McAlpin was recently on “Good Morning America,” where he announced that Virgin Voyages, an adult only cruise line, will require passengers to be vaccinated prior to boarding the ships. Other cruise lines that have announced they will require vaccinations are Victory Cruise lines, American Queen Steamboat Company and Crystal Cruises.
One thing is for sure. Whenever cruises start sailing again, it will be a different experience.