In a statement published Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said cruise ship operators can start doing “simulated voyages” with fully vaccinated volunteer passengers.
The new guidance is part of the CDC’s COVID-19 “Conditional Sailing Certificate application,” which aims to make sure cruises have all the necessary health and safety protocols in place.
“With the issuance of these documents, cruise ship operators now have all the necessary requirements and recommendations they need to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages,” the agency said.
The CDC said all volunteers will need to be fully vaccinated and will have to agree to be tested for COVID-19 three to five days after their voyage to ensure that they didn’t contract the virus while on the cruise.
The agency’s new guidelines further state that cruises can skip the “test cruise” phase if 98% of its crew and 95% of passengers have been fully vaccinated. Health officials also recommended that all port personnel and passengers get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they’re able to.
“COVID-19 vaccines play a critical role in the safe resumption of passenger operations, but not all cruise ship operators have announced plans to mandate passenger vaccinations,” the CDC stated. “As more people are fully vaccinated and more drug therapeutics are available, the phased approach allowed CDC to incorporate these advancements into planning for safe resumption of cruise ship travel.”
Moving toward resumption of normal operations
Cruise operators and cruise lovers alike are eager for cruise lines to resume normal operations. However, the CDC has been cautious in lifting restrictions imposed on the industry amid the pandemic.
In its most recent statement, the federal agency acknowledged that it’s “not possible for cruising to be a zero-risk activity for spread of COVID-19.”
“While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, CDC is committed to ensuring that cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern.”