According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cruises could restart in mid-July in American waters.
"We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the CSO’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," wrote Aimee Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC’s COVID-19 response within its Global Mitigation Task Force.
While the CDC outlined a potential restart date for cruises departing from U.S. ports this summer, that doesn't mean that the restrictions on cruises are lifted. The CDC offered clarifications to its guidance based on industry feedback and still expects cruise lines to meet its requirements before sailing can resume.
Vaccinations will play a key role in the resumption of service.
Based on industry feedback, the CDC landed on five clarifications to its additional guidance issued April 2 to allow a resumption of sailing:
Ships can bypass the required simulated test voyages carrying volunteers and jump to sailings with paying passengers if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.
CDC will review and respond to applications from cruise lines for simulated voyages within five days, a review previously expected to take 60 days.
CDC will 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.
CDC has clarified that cruise ship operators may enter into a "multi-port agreement" rather than a single port agreement as long as all port and local authorities sign the agreement.
The CDC has clarified guidance on quarantine guidelines for passengers who may be exposed to or contract COVID-19. For example, local passengers may be able to drive home and passengers who have traveled by air to cruise may quarantine in a hotel.
There is still a lot of unknowns and requirements for the cruise lines to return to American seas. We remain optimistic, however, that the cruise lines will meet and exceed all CDC requirements so that we can sail again very soon!