CDC says it doesn't know when it will be safe to resume cruises

In:
16Jun2020
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated its website with a note that indicates the agency has no current regulations that apply to crew member repatriation will necessarily apply to passengers on ships, nor is it certain when sailings can safely resume.

The CDC website lists criteria for cruise ships that are repatriating crew members, and includes a number of requirements to safely get them home via commercial travel.  The CDC specifically mentions these rules do not apply to passengers onboard.

"Meeting these criteria does not mean cruise ships can resume passenger operations. We don’t have enough information at this time to say when it will be safe to resume sailing with passengers. Cruise lines may need to establish additional safety measures before sailing with passengers is permitted to resume. CDC will continue to evaluate and update its recommendations as the situation evolves."

In the meantime, the CDC indicated that all cruise ships must abide by the current No Sail Order and Interim Guidance During the Period of the No Sail Order.

Waiting on the new rules

Royal Caribbean has not released or announced what new regulations and safety policies will be in place once cruising resumes.  While the cruise line says it intends to resume operations on August 1, this has been a moving target that is expected by many to be subject to change.

Norwegian Cruise Line issued its own list of new safety protocols for guests once cruising resumes, but Royal Caribbean is still working on their procedures.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has stated they plan to announce soon health safety protocols written by a "blue ribbon panel of experts".

"Looking forward to restarting, health and safety are absolutely paramount as I've said before, what was fine just a few weeks ago is no longer adequate. Good enough just good enough. We need to raise the bar to new heights, and we have teams of doctors, of scientists, of epidemiologists, and teams of people who know our business, all looking hard and charting the safest and surest path forward that we can."

CDC rules for ships right now

While cruise ships are not sailing with passengers, the CDC has come up with a color-coded system for signifying each cruise ship's infection status.

  • Green: no confirmed cases of COVID-19 or COVID-like illness for 28 days.
  • Yellow: one or more COVID-like illness cases pending confirmation.
  • Red: one or more cases of confirmed COVID-19 or COVID-like illness within the past 28 days

When a cruise ship requests to repatriate crew with the use of commercial travel, the ship will need to ensure not only does it meet the green status, but cruise company officials must sign an acknowledgment of the completeness and accuracy of their response plan.

Currently nine Royal Caribbean International ships have the status of "Provisionally Green" while the cruise line's No Sail Order Response Plan status is under review/revision. Five additional Royal Caribbean International ships have the status "Provisionally Red".

Ship NameShip StatusCommercial Travel Allowed
Adventure of the SeasProvisionally Red^No
Anthem of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Brilliance of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Enchantment of the SeasProvisionally Red^No
Grandeur of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Harmony of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Independence of the SeasProvisionally Red^No
Liberty of the SeasProvisionally Red^No
Mariner of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Navigator of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Oasis of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Rhapsody of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Symphony of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Vision of the SeasProvisionally Red^No

Information accurate as of June 15, 2020. Source: CDC

Provisionally Green means the ship meets the surveillance criteria for “Green” status, but the following have not been completed:

  • Review and revision of the cruise line’s No Sail Order response plan, or
  • Cruise line’s signed acknowledgement of a complete and accurate plan, or
  • Ship’s submission of a signed attestation to CDC for crew to travel commercially.

Provisionally Red means the ship meets the surveillance criteria for “Red” status, but the following have not been completed:

  • Review and revision of the cruise line’s No Sail Order response plan, or
  • Cruise line’s signed acknowledgement of a complete and accurate plan

Tourism opening up elsewhere

While the cruise lines are forced to adhere to CDC regulation and overview, other areas of tourism in the United States, and around the world, is in the process of reopening.

Notably, major theme parks in the United States and China are open, or in the process of opening up.

Universal Orlando re-opened select resort hotels and parks to guests last week. SeaWorld Orlando & Busch Gardens Tampa re-opened on June 11. Walt Disney World and Disneyland will re-open in July, along with its theme parks in China resuming operations. 

Airlines have had absolutely no direct oversight into their operations, and bars, restaurants, fitness centers and movie theaters having permission to reopen in some US states.

Las Vegas also recently reopened, having their hotels and casino resuming operations.

More information