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CDC has approved 4 test cruises, with 6 more under review

02 Jun 2021
Matt Hochberg

The CDC's inbox is getting full as cruise lines are rapidly applying to restart cruises.

A motion filed in court on Monday related to Florida's lawsuit against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave an update on where the CDC stands in granting approval for test cruises to begin.

According to the federal agency, cruise lines and ports have been busy making preparations for cruises to restart.

As of June 1, 2021, the CDC says it has provisionally approved 4 requests for test cruises to begin, with another 6 requests "under review".

The CDC also said it has received and provisionally approved 2 conditional sailing certificates for highly vaccinated cruises. These are cruises which will meet or exceed the mandate of having at least 95% fully vaccinated passengers and 98% fully vaccinated crew members.

In addition, port agreements covering 22 vessels at 5 ports of call have been approved, and another 6 are awaiting review.

The CDC divulged this information as an example to mediators that the CDC is indeed living up to its end of the bargain with the cruise lines to get ships back into service.

Read moreEverything you need to know about Royal Caribbean test cruises

"In short, cruising is set to resume as planned, and Florida cannot establish an irreparable injury that would occur in the absence of an injunction," representatives for the CDC stated in its motion.

So far, the public is aware of two of the four ships approved for test cruises: Freedom of the Seas and the Disney Dream.

The CDC has not listed what the other ships are, nor which other ships have applied for permission.  Thus far, the public is only made aware of specific approvals when a cruise line executive announces or leaks the information.

In terms of port agreements, Galveston, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades and PortMiami are all known to have signed agreements with various cruise lines to support test cruises.

The Port of Galveston announced on Tuesday that Royal Caribbean was "near completion on May 26" of its port agreement.

Test cruises and port agreements are all part of Phase 2A of the CDC's Conditional Sail Order (CSO).

The agreements also detail how the port, health district and cruise lines plan to respond in the event of an outbreak with medical care, transportation and housing, if needed. The cruise lines must demonstrate that they have agreements in place with providers for all of these services.

Procedures detailed in the agreements include the following:

  • Simulated passenger cruises
  • Compliance with port COVID safety procedures
  • A tabletop exercise with cruise line and port staff on port COVID safety procedures and protocols
  • An emergency response plan in the event of an outbreak
  • A plan for medical evacuations at sea coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard
  • Cruise terminal and transportation vehicle cleaning requirements

Florida objects to the CDCs conclusion

The purpose of the motion by the CDC was to essentially say Florida's lawsuit is meritless, but Florida objects.

The CDC believes not only are cruises in the process of restarting, it says, " Florida cannot establish an irreparable injury that would occur in the absence of an injunction."

The agency believes an injunction against the CSO would actually hinder, not help, Florida's goals.

According to the CDC, an injunction would end cruising in Alaska for the season (because Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA) only benefits ships operating with a Conditional Sailing Certificate under the CSO).

The ATRA temporarily permits “covered cruise ships” to meet an alternative standard, where a “covered cruise ship” is defined as one that  “has been issued, operates in accordance with, and retains a COVID–19 Conditional Sailing Certificate of the CDC” and “operates in accordance” with that Certificate.

In addition, the CDC thinks if the CSO was waived as a result of the lawsuit, the public would not trust cruise ships are safe, "an injunction would cast considerable doubt on public confidence in the industry, particularly in the State of Florida, which is publicly battling with the industry over its own laws."

Lastly, the CDC said an injunction would "otherwise undermine the carefully laid plans for safe resumption of passenger operations."

The motion says the CDC shared this information with the State of Florida via email on Monday, and Florida "partially opposes this motion and will file a response."

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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