Cruise Lines Can Sail Again From The U.S., But It’s Not Clear How Soon

In this aerial view, five luxury cruise ships are seen being broken down for scrap metal in Izmir, Turkey. With the global coronavirus pandemic pushing the cruise industry into crisis, some cruise operators have been forced to cut losses and retire ships. The cruise industry has been one of the hardest hit industries after a series of outbreaks occurred on cruise liners as the pandemic spread.

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Chris McGrath/Getty Images

In this aerial view, five luxury cruise ships are seen being broken down for scrap metal in Izmir, Turkey. With the global coronavirus pandemic pushing the cruise industry into crisis, some cruise operators have been forced to cut losses and retire ships. The cruise industry has been one of the hardest hit industries after a series of outbreaks occurred on cruise liners as the pandemic spread.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Cruise lines may begin sailing again from U.S. ports under rules released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency is allowing a “No Sail” order to expire at midnight Saturday.

In its place, the agency issued a 40-page document, signed by CDC director Robert Redfield, a “Framework for Conditional Sailing.” It requires cruise lines to build labs to test all crew members and passengers for the coronavirus. After taking other steps to safeguard passengers and crew, the CDC will then give cruise lines permission to conduct “simulated voyages” to show they can minimize the risk of COVID-19. Only passengers 18 or older, with medical authorization showing they have no pre-existing medical conditions that place them at risk, will be allowed to embark. Ship crews will have to show they can safely embark and disembark passengers, conduct safe excursions and shipboard activities and isolate passengers and crew who test positive. Once individual ships are certified, the CDC says it will then allow a “phased return” of voyages.

The CDC suspended cruises from U.S. ports in March after there were coronavirus outbreaks on a number of ships with at least 41 deaths. In recent months, the industry, backed by elected officials in Washington, D.C. and Florida, lobbied for the No Sail order to be lifted.

Under these guidelines, it’s not clear when cruises will resume. The largest cruise line, Carnival, has sailings from Florida ports scheduled in December.

In Europe, where cruise lines have resumed limited operations, the surge in coronavirus cases there has led several to cancel departures and trim schedules. In Australia, Princess Cruises has cancelled all sailings until June because of uncertainty about restrictions on international travel.

After months of waiting for the “No Sail” order to be lifted, the response from the cruise industry was less than effusive. The industry convened its own “Healthy Sail Panel” of medical experts who developed a lengthy set of guidelines for resuming cruises. In a statement, Kelly Craighead, CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association, said companies look forward to reviewing the new CDC order “in detail.” He says the industry is focused on protecting the public health, and “with enhanced measures in place, and with the continued guidance of leading experts in health and science as well as the CDC, we are confident that a resumption of cruising in the U.S. is possible to support the economic recovery.”