Cruise lines will no longer be obliged to follow COVID guidance on ships as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which was extended and modified in October, will expire Saturday at which point the health agency’s COVID guidance for cruise ships will become voluntary, the CDC confirmed to USA TODAY Wednesday. This means cruise lines can choose whether to follow the health agency’s guidance or not.
The health agency “is transitioning to a voluntary COVID-19 risk mitigation program” the CDC said in a statement shared by spokesperson David Daigle.
The program includes guidance and recommendations for cruise ships to keep operating in a way that fosters a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and impacted communities, according to the CDC.
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“Cruise ships operating in U.S. waters choosing to participate in the program on a voluntary basis agree to follow all recommendations and guidance issued by CDC as part of this program,” the CDC continued, noting the recommendations are aimed at reducing the spread of COVID.
Vessels operating in U.S. waters and sailing international itineraries that choose not to participate will be classified as “gray” on the health agency’s “Cruise Ship Color Status”website to indicate the CDC hasn’t reviewed the health and safety protocols put in place by that ship’s operator. Cruise ships that opt-out and sail only in U.S. waters will not be listed at all.
The CDC has relayed the information about the voluntary program to cruise industry members and expects cruise lines to indicate whether or not they will participate “in the coming week.”
As of Monday, reported COVID cases had increased 53% from a week earlier, averaging more than 750,000 new infections per day, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.
The CDC added that more information about the voluntary program will be released Saturday, when the CSO expires.
CSO expires at the heels of CDC’s travel warning
The order, first announced in October 2020, was created by the CDC to lay out a phased approach for the safe resumption of cruising in U.S. waters.
The expiration of the CSO comes just over two weeks after the CDC issued a warningagainst cruise travel on Dec. 30 after clusters of COVID-19 cases emerged on ships departing from the U.S. and around the globe.
Cruise Lines International Association, the leading trade organization for the cruise industry, said Wednesday that the CDC’s decision to move forward with transitioning its CSO to a voluntary program recognizes that the cruise industry has upheld an “unwavering commitment” to COVID mitigation.
“Cruise is the only segment of travel and tourism that requires, prior to embarkation for both passengers and crew, exceedingly high levels of vaccination (approaching 100% compared to only 63% of the U.S. population) and 100% testing of every individual (21 times the rate of the U.S. on land),” CLIA said in a statement shared by Bari Golin-Blaugrund, vice president of strategic communications for CLIA.
- On Tuesday, Norwegian postponed sailings across 11 cruise ships.
- Royal Caribbean has also paused itineraries on four ships as COVID-19 cases continue to spike.
- These are all the cruise ships Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have postponed.
Two major cruise lines have canceled sailings on a combined 15 ships as COVID-19 continues to spike around the world amid spread of the Omicron variant.
The majority of cruise ships sailing in the US have reported COVID-19 outbreaks in the last several weeks, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These ongoing outbreaks have barred cruise ships from docking at ports of calls, infected crew, and forced passengers to quarantine aboard ships.
Amid these disruptions, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have postponed several sailings, citing travel restrictions or the COVID-19 outbreak. Almost 250 cruises were set to sail throughout the first month of 2022, but this ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases could continue to cause further cancellations.
These are all the cruise vessels now facing cancelations:
Norwegian Cruise Line
In early January, Norwegian announced it will be canceling itineraries aboard eight ships due to “ongoing travel restrictions.” On Tuesday, the cruise giant expanded these postponements to include embarkations across 11 vessels:
- Norwegian Pearl — postponed through January 17
- Norwegian Dawn — postponed through January 18
- Norwegian Getaway — postponed through January 19
- Norwegian Escape — postponed through January 22
- Norwegian Joy — postponed through January 22
- Norwegian Sky — postponed through February 25
- Pride of America — postponed through February 26
- Norwegian Jade — postponed through March 3
- Norwegian Star — postponed through March 19
- Norwegian Sun — postponed through April 19
- Norwegian Spirit — postponed through April 23
Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
On Friday, Royal Caribbean also canceled sailings aboard four ships, citing “ongoing COVID-related circumstances”:
- Vision of the Seas — postponed until March 7.
- Serenade of the Seas — postponed until April 26
- Jewel of the Seas sailings — postponed until February 20
- Symphony of the Seas — postponed until January 29
- Seabourn — a luxury Carnival Corp brand — is now sailing out of Miami through March 2022.
- It’s the Seabourn Ovation cruise ship’s first time sailing out of the US.
- See inside the ship, which has suites that average at $1,000 per night, the Miami Herald reported.
Luxury cruise limes are making a steady return in the US after COVID-19 decimated the global cruising industry.
And now, Carnival Corp’s Seabourn brand is targeting this regrowing number of North American cruisers by bringing its “ultra-luxury” Seabourn Ovation ship to Miami, according to a press release.
The public health rules that dictate how cruise ships can operate in U.S. waters during the pandemic will become recommendations in mid-January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
Authorities replaced an earlier ban on cruise travel with a “conditional sailing order” in October 2020, which laid out steps cruise companies had to take to sail with passengers from U.S. ports. That order – which required ships to sail with at least 95% of people vaccinated or perform a test cruise to demonstrate safety procedures – was set to expire on Nov. 1.
Instead, the CDC will extend the order, with some tweaks, through Jan. 15. Those changes include new procedures for ships that come to U.S. waters after operating in other jurisdictions, new instructions for ships that want to switch from 95% of passengers vaccinated to a lower number and the end of required CDC travel advisories or warnings about cruising in marketing material.
“After the expiration of this temporary extension next year, CDC intends to transition to a voluntary program,” the agency said in a statement. “This transition will continue strong measures to detect, mitigate, and control the spread of covid.”
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MSC Cruises is the world’s largest privately-owned cruise line. MSC offers cruises in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Northern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, South America, South Africa, China, the United Arab Emirates and Sir Bani Yas.
A cruise with fares starting at $73,499 sold out in less than three hours Wednesday.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises put tickets for the 2024 World Cruise up for sale around 8:30 a.m. EST Wednesday. They sold out around 11 a.m., according to a company statement. Fares were as high as $199,999 per guest for a master suite.
The cruise is set to take off Jan. 6, 2024 from Miami, Florida on the Seven Seas Mariner.
Good Deals Page – Kiwi
As cruise lines aim to sail out of South Florida for the first time in over a year, many operators are fighting to require passengers to be fully vaccinated, but Governor Ron DeSantis says businesses in the state are not allowed to ask about vaccine statuses. Travel business news reporter for Business Insider, Brittany Chang, joins News NOW to discuss how the cruise ship industry is responding and what legal action they could take against Florida.
Meghan JonesUpdated: Sep. 28, 2020
As cruises do their utmost to avoid a repeat of early 2020, the world of cruising will look quite a bit different as ships set sail again.
Get on board with these changes
Before lockdowns became a reality in the United States, cruise ships provided a disturbing preview of what was to come. From the 14-day quarantine of thousands of people on the virus-stricken Diamond Princess ship in February to harrowing stories of cruise ship workers confined to their tiny cabins for months, these news bytes left people wondering if, or perhaps why, anyone would ever take a cruise again. In April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “no-sail order,” which they then extended in mid-July. This order didn’t actually provide a fixed date that cruises had to be docked until; it just prohibited cruises from sailing until they met certain COVID-19 protection standards.
And now, as a turbulent summer ends, some smaller cruise lines are starting to sail again. Others, however—including major carriers like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Disney—are continuing to wait for months to come. Whenever, if ever, you choose to go on a cruise again, here are some things you and your fellow passengers won’t be able to do. Of course, these will vary quite a bit by cruise line and individual ship, but these are the general things experts think you’re likely to see change. Plus, check out these things polite people never do on cruises.