Hit hard by the pandemic, cruises are in desperate need of a return.
Last year, when the world was still grappling with the COVID-19 situation, cruises around the world became super-spreaders. In the United States alone, 3,689 cases have been reported on cruises. As a result, the CDC issued a navigation ban order in March 2020.
the Frame for conditional navigation order (CSO) in October, applicable to vessels with a capacity of more than 250 passengers, described a gradual return to operations. Cruises have been asked to establish crew tests on board ships, conduct mock voyages, seek certification and mitigate risk. However, no timetable has been proposed on when they could be operational. The CDC also warned passengers that cruises were a high-risk activity, including river cruises.
Six months later, the council against cruises are still in place with a level 4 warning, the CDC recommends that all people avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide. But the cruise industry got it. With travel resuming after vaccinations, industry (and some states) are fighting the CDCs to get them back to business.
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The argument is that a lot has changed since October. Cruise operators have revamped many aspects of cruising and vaccinations are in full swing. Now that fully vaccinated people (around 30% of the U.S. population) are allowed to be maskless outdoors, the rules are changing, so restrictions with cruises need to be relaxed a bit as well.
International Association of Cruise Lines (CLIA) urged the CDC to lift its orders, so they can plan a controlled return to the waters this summer. Almost 400,000 passengers have already left Europe and parts of Asia since last summer, following rigorous science-based protocols, resulting in an incident rate well below that on land. The press release also hit the airline industry, the irony is that today an American can fly to any number of destinations to take a cruise, but cannot board a ship to United States.
1. Passengers wearing masks in Canada.Shawn.ccf / Shutterstock; 2. Social distancing aboard a German ship.penofoto / Shutterstock
The brawl is in the news every day, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in April that the state will file a lawsuit against the CDC. Later, Alaska said he wanted to come in, too. Both states are losing money due to shipping restrictions and want to jumpstart the economy. According to the CLIA, the cruise industry supported nearly 450,000 American jobs and contributed more than $ 55.5 billion a year before the pandemic.
What is the current status?
Cruise ships are not yet permitted to navigate in US waters. Smaller vessels operate on rivers and coastal waterways and many more will resume operations in Alaska in the coming weeks, Gene Sloan, senior reporter on cruises and travel to The points guy, points out.
The irony is that today an American can fly to any number of destinations for a cruise, but cannot board a ship in the United States.
In one letter this USA today obtained, the CDC said the cruise can begin in midsummer if cruise liners comply with the CSO. The detailed letter, We recognize that cruising will never be a zero risk activity and that the goal of the CSOs staged approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID transmission- 19 aboard cruise ships and in port communities.
This follows numerous meetings between the CDC and industry representatives. This may have given a tentative timeline, but cruise ships will still have to meet the requirements to set sail.
In April alone, the CDC talked about the next phase, which involves mock trips with volunteers. He also updated the color coding system, increased the frequency of reporting cases from week to week, and established a vaccination plan for the crew. The CDC also stresses the importance of vaccinations by allowing ships to bypass test trips if 98% of crew and 95% of paying passengers are vaccinated, USA today reported.
Sail this summer
For more than a year, cruise lines have suspended operations from the United States, but they are now starting to offer summer itineraries to Americans. The catch is, you’ll have to fly to set sail. Sloan shares, Come June, get started seeing major lines like Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises restart North American cruises for the first time in over a year, with more lines following in the months that follow. Initially, crossings will be made only from non-US ports such as Nassau in the Bahamas and the Royal Naval Dockyard in Bermuda.
Royal Caribbean from Bermuda, Bahamas, England, Cyprus; Silversea has a planned route from Greece; Celebrity has routes from St Maarten, Athens and England. Cruise enthusiasts can also book a vacation at sea with Crystal, Norwegian, and Windstar.
Europe is expected to lift its travel ban for fully vaccinated U.S. travelers this summer, so cruise enthusiasts will hopefully be able to take trips from different countries in the region.
Cruising is gaining momentum around the world. In fact, over the past year, nowhere cruises have become a travel trend. Operators have taken important steps to avoid cases on board, including capacity reduction, pre-board and post-disembark testing, crew quarantine, and social distancing on board (buffets are no longer self-service). The CDC has recommended vaccination of passengers and crew, and many cruise lines have already made vaccination mandatory for passengers.
Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea, Viking, Virgin Voyages and Windstar Cruises require passengers to be fully vaccinated, conditions vary by location and guests (listing complete here). They may also require pre-boarding and during travel testing, masks in public spaces and social distances, as well as other measures such as controlled shore excursions and reduced capacity.
Understand the risks
Do vaccinations completely eliminate the risk of COVID-19? Infection prevention epidemiologist Dr Saskia Popescu explains: [vaccination] could certainly reduce the risk on board, but that does not eliminate it entirely and it is important to communicate this to passengers, especially if they have vulnerable people at home. She adds that vaccination is only one of many strategies and that until global vaccine distribution and equity, public health interventions will play an important role in preventing the spread.
The aviation industry has seen signs of recovery. More than a million people have been screened by TSA every day last month. The CDC also updated its guidelines for fully vaccinated travelers, impressing it was safe to fly domestically. Cruises require the same treatment as airlines, but the two experiences may be different.
This [vaccination] could certainly reduce the risk on board, but that does not eliminate it entirely and it is important to communicate this to passengers, especially if they have vulnerable people at home.
Dr Popescu, who is also an assistant professor in the biodefense program at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and who has worked extensively on infection prevention, makes it clear. The flight tends to be of shorter duration and the planes have good ventilation in addition to the masking requirements. This will pose a challenge for sailing as these safety measures are not always in place. That being said, being on the deck is a great place to take some distance and get some fresh air. I worry the most about those activities below deck or indoors where eating / drinking means spending mask-less time with varying distance and ventilation for extended periods of time.
If you are booking a seacation this summer, be sure to check the warrant lists decided by the cruise liner and ask what their plan will be if there is a case detected on board. If you have to fly to another country to board, understand the destination requirements (vaccine, quarantine, negative test) and book your trips accordingly.
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