Europe issues guidance on resumption of cruising – will CDC follow suit?

The European Union has issued a report outlining the measures cruise lines need to take to resume sailing. 

Titled “Interim Advice for Restarting Cruise Ship Operations,” the June 30 document, published by EU Healthy Gateways, sets out extensive guidance for the operation of cruise ships once all restrictive measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have been lifted.

The guidance provides a list of measures to reduce the risk for introduction of COVID-19 onto the ship, transmission during cruise ship voyage, embarkation and disembarkation, and further provides options for preparedness to respond to potential COVID-19 cases among passengers and crew. 

Europe issues guidance on resumption of cruising
Europe issues guidance on resumption of cruising

The document states that a strategy for reducing the risks for COVID-19 among cruise ship passengers and crew should cover the entire process, beginning at the time of booking and extending until passengers and crew have returned to their homes. It also states that national policies for accepting incoming tourists to cross borders and to board cruise ships at the turnaround ports should also be considered in cruise line plans. 

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A gradual approach to resumption of sailing 

The guidance says that a gradual approach to restarting cruise ship operations should be considered and that, when resuming operations, cruise lines should initially consider using itineraries of a short duration – 3 to 7 days – and to perhaps limit the number of port visits in the itinerary. 

Each cruise ship operating in the waters of an EU member state will be required to a ship contingency plan/outbreak management plan for responding to a COVID-19 event should one break out and be submitted to the competent authority of at least one of its ports of call.

The document also states that authorities and ship operators should ensure that measures including the following conditions are met: 

  • Monitoring of epidemiological situation, rules, and restrictions worldwide
  • Written contingency plan/outbreak management plan for COVID-19
  • Arrangements for medical treatment and ambulance services 
  • Arrangements for repatriation
  • Arrangements for quarantine of close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 case
  • Adequate onboard testing capacity for infection 
  • Arrangements for isolation of passengers who have tested positive
  • Reduction of the number of passengers and crew on board to ensure that measures related to physical distancing, and isolation, on board ships can be maintained
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Facemasks required, no buffet 

The 48 page document sets out extensive guidance on all aspects of maintaining social distancing, personal hygiene, food safety, operation of entertainment venues, hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and shared facilities.

It recommends that passengers and crew wear facemasks at terminal stations and indoors.  Self-service buffet food operations should be avoided according to the guidance, which also recommends that crew and passengers are divided into designated groups and are served food at different times to limit interaction. Indoor swimming pools should be closed, while outdoor pools should be restricted to one bather per 43 feet of water surface. 

The Cruise Lines International Association described the EU document as “an important marker in the possible resumption of cruising in Europe,” adding that “full resumption [of sailing] will also be dependent on a variety of factors, including international, national, and/or local arrangements, the status of the continued spread of Covid-19 in specific locales, and advancements in detection, treatment and prevention.”

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When will the CDC issue its guidance?

While the EU document does not open the way for a resumption of ocean cruising – some river boat cruises have resumed sailing in Europe – it does appear to be a move closer. 

In the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control has issued interim guidance and a no-sail order that currently runs through to July 24 and major cruise lines have issued their own extensive health protocols for when a resumption of sailing is possible. 

The question is, when will the CDC issue its own more extensive recommendations and when will it finally allow cruise liners to resume sailing?

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