CDC updates guidance to cruise ship industry, urges vaccinations

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance to the cruise ship industry on Friday April 2nd.

The new technical instructions, which were the first updates since October last year, included increasing from weekly to daily the reporting frequency of Covid-19 cases and illnesses and the implementation of routine testing of all crew, based on a ship’s Covid-19 status. Finally, the CDC required the establishment of a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel.

The CDC said that Covid-19 vaccination efforts would be critical for the safe resumption of passenger operations.

CDC said the next phase of the CDC’s conditional sail order would include simulated voyages that would enable crew and port personnel to practise new Covid-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers.

Although the CDC said that it was “committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising when it is safe to do so”, following the phased approach outlined in last October’s conditional sail order the agency said, it did not specify a date for the resumption of cruise operations from US ports.

There have increasingly been calls from the industry for permitting a phased resumption by the beginning of July. The CDC said it would be issuing additional guidance before it would allow cruises to resume.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents all of the big hitters in US cruises, had pleaded with CDC to issue new guidance. It said on March 24th that the “lack of any action by the CDC has effectively banned all sailings in the largest cruise market in the world.”

The CLIA had also said that the CDC’s prior conditional sail order from October 2020 was outdated and did not reflect “the industry’s proven advancements and success operating in other parts of the world, nor the advent of vaccines”. The CLIA said that the CDC’s actions were treating cruises differently, without justification. It said that cruise lines should be treated the same as other travel, tourism, hospitality, and entertainment sectors.