Cruise companies are now one step closer to resuming sailings out of U.S. ports after The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), on Wednesday (May 5), released the next two phases of its framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).
The CDC says that cruise companies now have what they need to start "to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages and apply for a COVID-19 conditional sailing certificate to begin sailing with restricted passenger voyages."
Previous reports have indicated that the CDC is interested in resuming U.S. cruises by mid-summer, pegging mid-July as a potential starting point.
“With the issuance of these next two phases, cruise ship operators now have all the necessary requirements and recommendations they need to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages and apply for a COVID-19 conditional sailing certificate to begin sailing with restricted passenger voyages,” the CDC posted on its website on May 5.
The U.S. health agency noted that it may adjust its requirements and recommendations based on public health considerations and “other factors.”
Under the guidance, a cruise company would need to notify CDC and request its approval to conduct a simulated voyage at least 30 calendar days prior to the date on which the ship operator intends to conduct a test.
Operators must also outline the protocols to be simulated in the test run.
The CDC says it may also deny a request to conduct a simulated voyage if the cruise ship operator is not in compliance with any of CDC’s requirements for the mitigation of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships.
The agency says it will respond to requests “in a timely manner.”
Cruise companies are allowed to skip a simulated voyage if 98 per cent of the crew are fully vaccinated and if limited to 95 per cent of passengers who have been verified by the cruise ship operator as fully vaccinated prior to sailing.
Volunteers will be also needed for simulated voyages, the CDC writes.
Volunteers for test cruises must be 18 years of age or older, but passengers aren't required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
If they are not vaccinated, they must provide written documentation from a health care provider or must self certify that they aren't at a heightened risk for COVID-19, the CDC says.
And volunteers will be evaluated for COVID-19 symptoms before embarking, and after disembarking along with an agreement to be tested for COVID-19 three to five days following the cruise.
What happens during a simulation?
The CDC is requiring cruises to meet several requirements in order to complete a proper simulation.
This includes performing at least one simulation for each ship for which the cruise ship operator intends to commence restricted passenger voyages.
Simulated voyages must be between two-seven days in length with at least one overnight stay to test the efficacy of the operator’s ability to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 onboard.
The CDC, however, is recommending a minimum voyage length of three days with two overnight stays.
Rigorous health and hygiene practices must also be followed, as per CDC guidelines.
Click here to read the CDC's complete updated instructions.
As ships cannot currently sail in U.S. waters, several cruise lines have, instead, unveiled summer itineraries at ports across the Caribbean and Europe.
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