For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has signaled that some cruising could restart from U.S. sometime this summer.
“CDC is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the conditional sailing order,” the statement said. “This goal aligns with the desire to resume passenger operations in the United States expressed by many major cruise ship operators and travelers; hopefully, by mid-summer with restricted revenue sailings.”
The statement also acknowledged that “COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of passenger operations, especially as more variants emerge and spread around the world.”
The statement comes after Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) on April 5 directly asked the CDC to allow them to cruise from U.S. ports starting July 4.
Also, numerous cruise lines have already started or announced plans to resume sailing on itineraries entirely outside the U.S. – in Europe and Asia – but also in locales such as the Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda that are easily accessible to U.S. travelers by air.
The CDC statement also arrived after cruise industry officials, led by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), called the agency’s latest guidelines to resume cruising “unduly burdensome (and) largely unworkable.”
Large passenger cruise ships have been shut down in the U.S. for more than a year. The CDC’s Conditional Sail Order (CSO) issued Oct. 30, 2020, was supposed to serve as a framework for a return to cruising, but it remained in place for more than five months while cruise lines developed extensive health and safety protocols created in consultation with high-profile and acknowledged medical experts.
When, on April 2, the CDC released the latest Phase 2 guidelines, cruise executives saw more technical instructions and no clear timeline for a return to cruising.
Just days later, NCLH released its letter to the CDC and CLIA issued its critical statement. And on April 6, Carnival Cruise Line canceled more cruises and said it might also be forced to operate off-shore after previously saying it planned to stick to its U.S. homeports.
With millions of Americans getting the COVID-19 vaccine daily, cruise executives emphasize that it appears more likely that cruising could resume safely with vaccine mandates, testing and preventive measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing.