The CDC will let cruises sail again starting November 1, but normal trips are likely a long way away

Photo by Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesThe CDC gave the cruise industry a path toward restarting trips in a detailed set of guidelines it released Friday.
  • The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention gave cruise lines a path toward restarting US operations Friday.
  • Under the CDC’s new order, cruise lines will be able to sail again on November 1, but they won’t be allowed to bring passengers on board until they meet a rigorous set of requirements.
  • The CDC pushed to extend its no-sail order to February 2021, but the White House intervened to overrule that plan, Axios reported.
  • The current no-sail order expires October 31.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention will let US cruises sail again starting November 1, but companies will need to meet a long list of requirements before they can let passengers back on board, the agency announced Friday.

The CDC will let its latest no-sail order expire at the end of October, lifting the ban on cruising that it put in place as the pandemic hit the US in March. The agency had pushed to extend the order until February, but the White House — under pressure from Florida lawmakers and industry lobbyists — overruled that plan in favour of an October 31 expiration, Axios reported.

Now cruises will be able to hit US waters once again just days before the presidential election, but it appears that travellers won’t be able to board the ships anytime soon. The CDC’s “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order” — which replaces the previous no-sail order — “introduces a phased approach for the safe and responsible resumption of passenger cruises.” The CDC’s goal is to prevent the kinds of severe COVID-19 outbreaks that rocked cruise ships in the early days of the pandemic.

In the first phases, cruise operators will need to “demonstrate adherence to testing, quarantine and isolation, and social distancing requirements to protect crew members” as they develop the capacity to test crew and passengers.

Read more: Shipwrecked: How Carnival’s high hopes for 2020 gave way to ‘floating petri dishes,’ stranded crew members, and a spate of COVID-19 deaths at sea

Later phases will involve mock voyages with volunteers playing the role of passengers. Cruise lines that prove their ability to mitigate COVID-19 risks adequately will be certified to bring back passengers.

During the initial phases, the CDC plans to help cruise lines protect crew members by creating a laboratory team to oversee coronavirus testing.

“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing. It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. in a statement.

The conditional sailing order provides a light at the end of the tunnel for the struggling cruise industry, which the COVID-19 pandemic brought to an abrupt standstill when it hit the US earlier this year. Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise operator, reported a $US2.9 billion net loss for the third quarter of 2020 and recently announced plans to sell 18 ships, or about 12% of its fleet.

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