Finally, after lawsuits, industry pleas, congressional complaints, and nearly 70% of the prime cruising demographic getting fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has relaxed its sailing ban.
In a letter sent to cruise lines on Wednesday, the agency said the industry can set sail again starting in mid-July if they certify that 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated. The CDC said the change came about after several rounds of meetings with cruise lines.
The CDC's change also allows cruise lines that have met that vaccination mark to skip the current Conditional Sailing Order (CSO). Until now, cruise lines had to do a trial sailing before allowing passengers on board so that the ship’s COVID-19 mitigation protocols could be vetted.
Many cruise lines were already prepared for the change. When ConsumerAffairs reviewed the CDC’s list of ships that have met surveillance reporting requirements, all the major lines -- Carnival, Holland America, Princess, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean -- all had a “green” status. Green means, among other things, that the ship had “no confirmed cases of COVID-19 or COVID-19-like illness for 14 days, as determined by a qualified medical professional.”
The cruise industry says it’s encouraged by the change
As you can imagine, the cruise industry couldn’t be happier after a year and a half of being at the dock.
“We are encouraged by the communication from the CDC Wednesday evening and look forward to learning more,” Laziza Lambert, Director of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs for the Cruise Lines International Association told ConsumerAffairs. “Our technical experts are currently reviewing the information and its implications, but we are optimistic that these clarifications show positive progression—and, importantly, a demonstrated commitment to constructive dialogue, which is key to restarting cruising as we have seen with other governments and health authorities around the world.”
Lambert said that despite the CDC’s change, this is not a fait accompli. “Plenty of work remains in order to achieve our mutual goal of responsible resumption from U.S. ports this summer. Doing so will put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work and further support the nation’s economic recovery from the pandemic,” she said.