The CDC’s No Sail Order was put into effect in March 2020 and brought the entire cruise industry to a halt. After over 6 months of no cruises, the American Society of Travel Advisors threatened to sue the federal government if the No Sail Order continued. In response, the CDC replaced it with a Conditional Sail Order.
So does that mean cruises are operating again?
Not quite yet. This new policy requires cruise lines to prove they can follow CDC guidelines and prevent the spread of COVID onboard. Part of that requirement is mock voyages with volunteer cruise guests, like employees or their family members. But before those mock sailings take off, cruise lines will need to be able to meet a set of requirements involving testing accessibility, evacuation and quarantine procedures, and more.
What will the cruise lines have to do?
They’ll need to be able to prove that they can follow the CDC‘s health and safety guidelines onboard in regards to dining, entertainment, excursions, etc. The cruise lines must be able to test employees effectively and create the laboratory space needed to test a large number of passengers at a given time. Testing must be accessible shoreside in each port. Once the proper procedures are in place, they'll need to simulate successful mock voyages. They’ll then need to pass a certification process before they’re finally able to allow regular guests again.
What happens if someone onboard gets COVID?
Part of the Conditional Sail Order will require cruise lines to have arrangements with hospitals and lodging locations for guests to quarantine in each port, as well as proper testing and evacuation/isolation procedures.
When does this sail order lift?
Right now it’s set to last until November 2021. However, it’s very possible we see that date change. If we happen to get a vaccine and start seeing cases go down, we’ll likely see that date move up. On the other hand, if cases continue to get worse, it will probably be pushed back (similar to the No Sail Order).
Is it really safe to cruise?
After reading this conditional sail order, I would say absolutely not. A majority of the first 15 or so pages talked about how much easier it is for Covid to spread on cruise ships than in other settings. In my opinion, I believe this was a response to ASTA threatening to sue, and not the CDC announcing that it is now safe to sail. In fact, the document actually says it is currently NOT safe to sail, and won’t be until all of these requirements are meant. The question now is - how long will that take?
About the Author:
I'm Anna Mills - a travel agent, blogger, and author of the book "100 Ways to Make Travel More Affordable". I have been a guest on the Trip Sister's Podcast and TripScout's Roadtrip Expert Panel. You may have seen me in Texas Lifestyle Magazine, Opploans.com, or as a Rising Star for Travel Market Report.