The travel sector has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and the cruise industry has been one of the worst hit.
Although it had been hoped that cruises would be allowed to restart again this fall, the cruise industry has confirmed that all cruises have been suspended in US waters for the rest of the year.
The news was announced shortly after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had replaced its ‘no sail’ order with a ‘conditional sailing order’, which “introduces a phased approach for the safe and responsible resumption for passenger cruises.
Alongside many cruise operators, including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and MSC Cruises, cancelling their voyages, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) – home to many of the largest international cruise operators – has confirmed the move.
The announcement has also confirmed that the remaining two months of 2020 will be spent ensuring stringent coronavirus procedures will be implemented in an effort to keep their passengers and staff safe. The procedures will be compiled with assistance from health experts as well as the CDC.
However some have said the new order can be seen as confusing as although it does not specifically state that people are not allowed to take a cruise, it is not allowing passenger cruises to be fully reinstated.
Instead the order is “a phased, deliberate and intentional pathway” designed to enable all cruise liners to set sail when they are deemed safe to do so.
Furthermore, the CDC has released a “Level 3 Health Notice” which advises against cruise ship travel anywhere in the world, not just in American waters. It had been thought that passengers could join Asian and European cruises that have restarted.
Speaking on behalf of the CLIA a spokesperson confirmed, “As we continue to plan for a gradual and highly controlled return of cruise operations in the US. CLIA members are committed to implementing stringent measures to address COVID-19 safety, including 100 per cent testing of passengers and crew, expanded on-board medical capabilities and trial sailings, among many others.
“We share a common goal with the CDC to protect public health, which has been affirmed and reaffirmed consistently throughout the industry’s response to the global pandemic.
“As we work to operationalize a path forward, our members have agreed to extend our existing suspension of US operations through December 31.
“This action will provide additional time to align the industry’s extensive preparation of health protocols with the implementation requirements under the CDC’s ‘Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase COVID-19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew’.”
The organization continued that they “recognize the devastating impact that the pandemic continues to have on the 421,000 Americans whose livelihoods are connected directly to cruise operations.
“We will work with urgency to advance a responsible return to cruising while maintaining a focus on effective, science-based measures to protect public health.”
In the United Kingdom all cruise ship travel has been discouraged by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) with their guidelines stating that an overnight stay on a seagoing cruise ship, for at least one night, with people from multiple households, although boats that have been privately rented or ferries are not included in their advice.
When cruise liners are allowed to restart testing will be compulsory for any liner that is allowed to carry at least 250 people and will see all crew members as well as passengers tested for coronavirus before they are allowed to set sail. Anyone who is unable to provide a negative result will be refused entry onto the ship.
During the early months of the pandemic cruise ships were a hotspot for the virus with several ships being left at sea after countries refused to let them disembark. Many saw the virus spread amongst those on board and passengers were forced to remain in their rooms. The new testing regulations are hoped to stop this from happening again.
CLIA, who made the announcement, stated “CLIA ocean cruise line members worldwide have agreed to conduct 100 per cent testing of passengers and crew on all ships with a capacity to carry 250 or more persons – with a negative test required for any embarkation.
“This is a travel industry first and an example of the cruise industry leading the way.”
CLIA continued, “we see testing as an important initial step to a multi-layered approach that we believe validates the industry’s commitment to making health, safety, and the well-being of the passengers, the crew, and the communities we visit our top priority.”
While the move has come into effect immediately and is in place worldwide, it is not yet clear whether passengers will be required to be tested at the port or a few days before their booking. It is also unsure whether cruise companies will be required to use nasal swabbing (PCR) or rapid testing.