Cruise ships could finally return to North American waters after a hiatus of over a year, according to a letter to cruise industry executives sent by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the Conditional Sailing Order’s phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities,” Aimee Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC’s COVID-19 response within its Global Mitigation Task Force for COVID-19, said in the letter obtained and published by USA Today.
Cruises back in North American waters by mid-July
The letter itself did not specify a timeline for a return to cruising from North America, but a spokesman for the CDC told USA today that cruises could resume as early as mid-July, subject to compliance with the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.
According to the report, ships can bypass the CSO’s required simulated test voyages carrying volunteers and jump to sailings with paying passengers if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.
The report quoted the CDC as saying it would also update its testing and quarantine requirements for passengers and crew on sailings with paying passengers to align with the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated people. So, for example, instead of taking a PCR lab test ahead of boarding vaccinated passengers can take a rapid antigen test upon embarkation.
Royal Caribbean hoping to be back for Alaska season
In a statement prior to Royal Caribbean Group’s quarterly earnings call, Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO said: “Last night, the CDC notified us of some clarifications and amplifications of their Conditional Sail Order which addressed uncertainties and concerns we had raised. They have dealt with many of these items in a constructive manner that takes into account recent advances in vaccines and medical science. Although this is only part of a very complex process, it encourages us that we now see a pathway to a healthy and achievable return to service, hopefully in time for an Alaskan season.”