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Two COVID-19 retests of Royal Caribbean passenger come back negative


The passenger who tested positive for COVID-19 on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas has had two follow-up tests in Singapore and both tests have come back negative.

UPDATE: The passenger has tested negative in three different tests

Singapore's Ministry of Health said in two different tests, the results have been negative for COVID-19.  A third test is planned.

Quantum of the Seas had her cruise cut short once a 83-year-old passenger reported not feeling well to ship medical staff and a mandatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test came back as positive for COVID-19.

The ministry said the laboratory will conduct another test on Thursday to confirm if the passenger does indeed have COVID-19.

"An 83 year-old male Singaporean on board Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas tested positive for COVID-19 infection this morning, and was immediately isolated. He had reported to the medical centre with diarrhoea, and as part of the protocols was tested for COVID-19 using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test equipment on board the ship. His original sample has since been re-tested at the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), and has come back negative for COVID-19 infection. A second fresh sample tested by NPHL has also come back negative. NPHL will conduct another test tomorrow to confirm his COVID-19 status."

Once Quantum of the Seas returned to Singapore, Singapore Tourism Board Director of Cruise confirmed the passenger was evacuated off the ship and taken to a hospital for further testing. 

As a precautionary measure, all the identified close contacts of the case have been isolated.

As part of the routine post-arrival protocols, all passengers will undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing before they are allowed to leave the terminal at Marina Bay Cruise Centre. 

Royal Caribbean has already cancelled its next sailing of Quantum of the Seas, which was scheduled to depart on Thursday.

Rapid tests are notorious for false positives. Earlier this summer, 12 TUI Cruise crew members tested positive for COVID-19, but follow-up tests showed those same crew tested negative.

New health protocols working as intended

While the suspected case of coronavirus may end up being a false positive, nonetheless, Royal Caribbean's new protocols have demonstrated it can work well.

In coordination with the Singaporean government, a "robust, tiered response plan" went into effect to not only isolate any one who may have come in contact with the patient, but also provide a means to get guests off the ship safely and quickly.

In a statement, Royal Caribbean emphasized the importance of these new rules, "That we were able to quickly identify this single case and take immediate action is a sign that the system is working as it was designed to do."

Positive Coronavirus case on cruise ship is proof new health protocols work


After just a handful of sailings, the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship encountered its a positive COVID-19 case onboard and while that is far from good news, the fact remains the new health protocols are working.

One passenger tested positive and was quickly isolated, with anyone that came in close contact tested and isolated as well.

There was no widespread infections on the ship, the ship was not held indefinitely in quarantine, and passengers were able to disembark after returning to Singapore.

The important takeaway is not that there was a positive case on a cruise ship, but instead that with around 1,000 passengers onboard, one case was discovered and isolated.

The cruise industry is under the microscope of public opinion, living under the shadow of well-known long-term quarantine events from early 2020 when the virus was first spreading around the globe.

Similar to how airports radically changed protocols after the September 11th attacks, the cruise industry has re-evaluated all of its protocols and come up with a new approach.

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings teamed up to create a panel of health experts that would oversee development of enhanced cruise line health and safety protocols.

Known as the "Healthy Sail Panel", this group is comprised of top experts in public health, infectious disease, biosecurity, hospitality and maritime operations in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Serving at the head of the new panel will be Governor Mike Leavitt, former Secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services (HHS), and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Healthy Sail Panel came up with 74 recommendations for cruise ships to operate safely, that include masks, social distancing, testing and more.

In confirming the single case of COVID-19, Royal Caribbean seemed satisfied in the fact their system is working, "That we were able to quickly identify this single case and take immediate action is a sign that the system is working as it was designed to do."

Moreover, Royal Caribbean has said for a while these protocols will need to evolve, and be adjusted as necessary.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has spoken about the need to learn what is working and what is not working, and make necessary changes.

"We'll start at one point and then gradually, as knowledge of the disease, as the testing, as the contact tracing, as vaccines come on board, that will gradually adjust."

"Our mantra is continuous improvement. And it means just that everything gets better, every chance we get."

Cruise fans react

The news of the positive case on Quantum of the Seas was not welcome news, but not totally unexpected either.

Many cruise fans shared their thoughts on the incident on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog message boards.

sk8erguy1978 echoed what so many cruise fans feel right now, "This is a bit of a blow. Hopefully the new procedures keep the case count to this one individual, proving they can limit an outbreak. But, this is a big win for the naysayers and those who believe ships are floating petri dishes."

twangster was satisfied with the how the protocols kicked in, "The encouraging view is that the protocols worked.  If there were around 1,000 guest on board, there was one case discovered and isolated."

Traveler saw the bright side of the incident, "For sure lesson learning needs to be done, but I see it as good results. We have a proof that even if you find one sick person on the ship its not the end of the world. "

One of the early reactions from many cruise fans has also been they see the role of vaccines becoming more and more likely to be required.

Neither Royal Caribbean, nor any cruise line has mentioned if a COVID-19 vaccine would be required, but it has not stopped many from speculating on it.

Oliver wrote, "Cruising is never going to happen without proof of vaccination."

AndrewPunch shared, "In my humble opinion, cruises won't start in the US till summer and require a vaccine passport".

Photos: Quantum of the Seas returns to Singapore following positive COVID test


Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas returned to Singapore after one passenger onboard tested positive for COVID-19.

UPDATE: The passenger has tested negative in three different tests

An 83-year-old passenger has been identified as the passenger that reported not feeling well to the ship's medical staff.

Singapore Tourism Board Director Annie Chang told the Associated Press that the passenger complained of diarrhea.

In addition, that passenger had been tested prior to boarding Quantum of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean said in a statement that the passenger was isolated, and other crew members and guests who had close contact were isolated and tested.

Quantum of the Seas returned to the Marina Bay Cruise Centre in Singapore, and was eventually cleared to disembark passengers after 7:30pm local time.

Our friends at Singapore Cruise Society shared photos of Quantum of the Seas arriving back in Singapore.

Guests began disembarking off Quantum of the Seas in groups, and all will undergo an Antigen Rapid Test before returning home.

According to the Singapore Cruise Society, Royal Caribbean will cancel the next scheduled sailing of Quantum of the Seas, which is a 4-night sailing departing on December 10.

Once the positive test onboard had been reported, the ship's captain asked passengers to remain in their staterooms "in an abundance of caution".

The ship's return and ability to disembark passengers without a lengthy quarantine onboard is a testament to both Royal Caribbean's onboard protocols, as well as its agreement with the Singaporean government.

"That we were able to quickly identify this single case and take immediate action is a sign that the system is working as it was designed to do," the cruise line said in a statement.

Royal Caribbean's enhanced health protocols catch positive COVID-19 case on cruise ship


A positive case of Coronavirus has been identified and isolated aboard the only Royal Caribbean cruise ship in operation.

UPDATE: The passenger has tested negative in three different tests

Cruise Critic is reporting a positive case of COVID-19 has been identified on Quantum of the Seas and as a result, the ship is headed back to Singapore as part of the government's protocols.

In addition, Royal Caribbean has isolated and quarantined the guests and crew that had close contact with the guest, per the cruise line's protocols.

Royal Caribbean confirmed the case and issued a statement regarding what is happening.

One guest aboard Quantum of the Seas tested positive for coronavirus after checking in with our medical team.

We identified and isolated all guests and crew who had close contact with this guest, and each of those individuals have subsequently tested negative for the virus.

The ship is returning to port today in accordance with government protocols, and will debark guests after a review of contact tracing is completed.

We are in communication with the Singapore government, and appreciate their guidance as we work together to protect the health and safety of our guests and crew.

We worked closely with the government to develop a thorough system that tests and monitors all guests and crew and follows public health best practices. That we were able to quickly identify this single case and take immediate action is a sign that the system is working as it was designed to do.

Quantum of the Seas resumed cruises last week, offering short cruises from Singapore and only to residents of Singapore.

Quantum of the Seas is equipped  with upgraded medical facilities where rapid SARS-CoV-2 tests can be conducted onboard to provide rapid, accurate onsite RT-PCR testing with results in under an hour, alongside a multitude of other evaluative tests. 

In addition, every guest on the ship is wearing either a contact tracing token or utilizing a contact tracing app to identify exactly who may have come in contact with someone that tests positive.

Multi-tiered plan to mitigate risks

Early on, Royal Caribbean said its plans had to accept risk and acknowledge there are no guarantees.

One of the co-chairmen of the Healthy Sail Panel's co-chairmen, Governor Mike Leavitt, talked about the realities of planning new policies and procedures with realistic expectations.

When Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings created the Healthy Sail Panel, they had to recognize nothing in society is every completely safe, and you have to accept that risk before crafting a response for it.

"We put together this combination not just because of their subject matter expertise, but because they have had long experience in evaluating ideas and being able to come to an understanding that there's no place in our society that you can say is absolutely 100 percent safe."

"We all manage risks every day, whether we're walking across the street or opening a package of food. There's some kind of risk involved in all of that."

"The idea isn't that we can eliminate all of that. The idea is we can manage it and understanding that perspective and recognizing that it requires judgment to do this well."

Response plan

Royal Caribbean developed a plan to respond to a scenario such as this, and coordinated these plans with the Singaporean government.

According to Royal Caribbean's health protocols, in the event a guest tests positive for COVID-19, a "robust, tiered response plan" goes into effect.

The tiers increase protocols and vigilance onboard while providing transparent updates to guests the whole way.

In partnership with local authorities, Royal Caribbean has developed transport protocols to ensure we can get guests home safely. 

In fact, Royal Caribbean identified early that being "stuck" in quarantine on a cruise ship was not something any guest wanted, and a result, Royal Caribbean has developed transport agreements with local authorities in a situation like this to get everyone home safely.

Royal Caribbean cancels cruises through February 2021 while preparing to restart


It now will be at least March before you can get on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean announced on Wednesday it has cancelled January and February 2021 cruises that were scheduled in order to provide more time to prepare to restart cruise operations.

There are two exceptions: Singapore sailings onboard Quantum of the Seas, and Spectrum of the Seas’ China departures between January 24 - February 28, 2021. 

In addition, the remainder of the Australia/New Zealand season has been cancelled — through April 2021.

Cruise fans may have hoped there would be a chance for cruises to begin in 2021, but unfortunately Royal Caribbean needs more time to prepare for all of the new requirements that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has placed on all cruise lines to demonstrate the new health protocols are effective at preventing the spread of any disease on a cruise ship.

In a statement sent via email, Royal Caribbean said it needs more time to get things right, " As we strengthen our continued partnership with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), please know that we are taking a very thorough approach and, therefore, require a little extra time."

Cruise operations had been suspended through the end of December 2020, but will now be extended an additional two months.

Read moreWhat you should do now that Royal Caribbean cancelled your cruise


Guests affected by the cancelled cruises between January 1 - February 28,  2021, have three options for compensation.

Lift & Shift: Select next year’s sailing with the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within the same 4-week window of the original cruise date, and you can take your existing reservation and move it to next year.Option expires on December 16, 2020.

125% Future Cruise Credit: To account for the inconvenience this has caused, guests are eligible for a 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that is based on the total cruise fare paid at the guest-level if neither of the other options is selected. This will be automatically issued on or before January 15, 2021 if no other option is selected.

Taxes and fees, as well as any pre-purchased amenities or onboard packages will be automatically refunded to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date. 

If you previously opted to take advantage of our Cruise with Confidence policy, the 100% FCC will stand, and this new option is ineligible.

Additionally, if you redeemed your Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on a sailing that is now cancelled, their original FCC will be reinstated, plus 125% of any amount paid by the guest on the cancelled reservation.

Refund: If you prefer a cash refund, you can do so by requesting this option on-or-before March 31, 2021.

You can expect their refund to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date. 

If you redeemed a Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on an impacted sailing and would now prefer a refund instead, Royal Caribbean will process this request in the amount of any new funds paid above the original certificate and, in turn, will reinstate the Cruise with Confidence FCC for future use.

Cruise Planner Purchases: If you had purchased any cruise add-ons, such as shore excursions, drink packages, wifi and more, you could opt to convert your Cruise Planner purchases  to an Onboard Credit valued at 125% of the total amount paid. This offer expires on November 13, 2020.

More prep time needed

While the CDC lifted the No Sail order at the end of October, the new regulations and requirements imposed on the cruise industry to be able to restart simply means Royal Caribbean needs more time to meet the new requirements.

Before Royal Caribbean can start offering cruises again, it needs to hit all of the steps outlined by the CDC.

The CDC added all of these requirements to allow the cruise lines to test out its proposed new protocols, while protecting the health of the public in the interim period.

The three phases of getting permission to restart passenger cruises are:

  1. Testing crew members
  2. Simulated cruises to test out new protocols
  3. Apply for a Conditional Sailing Certificate

The entire cruise industry has adopted a sweeping range of new protocols outlined by the recommendations made by the Healthy Sail Panel earlier this summer.  There are 74 recommendations on how cruise ships can be operated safely during the currrent global health crisis.

Royal Caribbean has expressed it can operate in a safe manner, and is eager to prove the Healthy Sail Panel recommendations can work effectively.

The framework for sailing again is not simple, and the CDC admits the rules can change in terms of what is needed to get cruise ships operating again from the United States.

It is unknown how long it will take Royal Caribbean to complete all of the necessary steps and subsequently obtain permission to cruise again.

For its part, Royal Caribbean has been adamant about taking as much time as it needs to get everything right.

"But it's fair to say that there is still a lot of uncertainty against this backdrop, " Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said during a conference call with investors in August. "We will not rush to return to service until we are confident that we have figured out the changes that we must make to offer our guests and crew strong health and safety protocols with the enjoyable experience that they rightly expect."

"We believe that our health is healthy. Return to service program will help get us there."

5 ways cruise ships have tougher COVID-19 protocols than airplanes


When cruise ships restart sailings, they will have sweeping new health protocols and policies that are unmatched in the rest of the travel industry.

Perhaps no other industry is taking as many precautions and adopting new rules in order to protect the health of its customers and workers than the cruise lines.

While the airlines have adopted some new rules to keep its passengers safe, new cruise line health protocols are going to greatly exceed those basic safeguards.

Of course the experience on a cruise ship is not exactly the same as on an airplane, nonetheless, the cruise industry is going above and beyond the new health protocols airlines have adopted that claim to be safe for flying.

Limiting ship capacity vs. leaving middle seat open

The basic step airlines took to socially distance its passengers was to leave the middle seat open on its airplanes (a step most airlines are about to get rid of), but cruise ships are going to leave up to half of their rooms unsold to foster social distancing.

When cruise ships restart operations, they will not come close to filling their cruise ships.  One of the health protocols that the Healthy Sail Panel proposed, and adopted by the cruise industry, is to limit how many passengers are able to go on a cruise ship in order to allow for appropriate physical distancing on board.

The exact percentage of a ship's capacity that will be reduced will depend on the size and design of each cruise ship, but when Quantum of the Seas restarts cruises in Singapore in December, Royal Caribbean will reduce the capacity to no more than 50% occupancy.

In fact, the first Quantum of the Seas sailing will only have about 1,000 passengers onboard a ship that can regularly handle 4,905 guests.

In addition, other forms of social distancing will be enforced, including reduced capacity at dining and other public venues, staggered embarkation and check-in and the addition of more options for entertainment such as additional show times to allow for social distancing.

While many airlines quickly adopted leaving the middle seat open as a policy, a number of airlines have either removed or plan to remove that policy. At one time, Frontier Airlines announced it would charge passengers a fee, starting at $39, to ensure the middle seat next to them would remain empty. 

100% testing on cruise ships vs. no testing at all

If you go on a flight today, you can walk right into the airport, through security and onto your airplane without any tests. Cruise ships have promised to test every single person and crew member.

All lines that are members of the Cruise Lines International Association have committed to 100 percent testing of all passengers and crew prior to embarkation on ships that carry more than 250 passengers. 

One of the goals of the Healthy Sail Panel is to make being on a ship as safe as or safer than being in your own home town.

The onboard medical care offers guests and crew members daily temperature checks, fast and free SARS-CoV-2 testing capabilities onboard, and complimentary in-stateroom medical evaluations.

Royal Caribbean has also added more doctors and nurses in their shipboard Medical Centers and enhanced its state-of-the-art equipment to provide high quality care.

No other section of the travel industry has 100% testing, which separates Royal Caribbean (and other CLIA member lines) from the rest of travel.

Air circulation

Modern airplanes maintain clean air by circulating a mix of fresh air and air recycled through HEPA filters. Royal Caribbean says its HVAC system continuously supplies 100% fresh, filtered air from outdoors to all indoor spaces.

The air is drawn from one side of the ship for cooling and ventilation, then removed via exhaust on the opposite side of the ship.

This continual intake of fresh air replaces the air in any space, with a total air change up to 12 times an hour in staterooms, and about 15 changes an hour in large public spaces.

Upgraded MERV 13 filters capture aerosols 0.3 to 1 micron in size — fine enough to filter coronavirus, colds and flu.

CDC oversight vs no oversight

Since March, the cruise industry has had to answer to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and faced an uphill battle for proving it can operate safely. The airlines have encountered no such government restrictions.

For many months, the CDC shut down the cruise industry while airlines were able to continue operating unabated and with no new rules imposed by the government.

Only recently has the CDC provided a new pathway for cruises to receive permission to cruise again, assuming each cruise ship can demonstrate it can function in a safe manner under a series of strict checkpoints and requirements.

The framework for conditional sailing is meant to potentially allow cruise ships to sail again while not putting the public health at risk.

Enhanced sanitization

Both airlines and cruise lines have committed to cleaning surfaces, but cruise ships will ensure they have medical grade cleanliness onboard.

Airplanes treat their planes with antimicrobial technology that can disinfectant surfaces onboard.

Cruise ships have also adopted new cleaning standards to ensure every ship is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to every voyage, and consistently and frequently throughout a sailing. 

Royal Caribbean has said frequently touched areas like elevators, escalators, stairways, and promenades will be cleaned every two hours and gangway rails every 20 to 30 minutes during busy times.

Staterooms are cleaned daily only while guests are out of the room, and particular attention is paid to frequently used items and surfaces.  Hospital-grade disinfectants are used daily to clean all high-touch surfaces.

Like on airplanes, touchless Purell hand sanitizer and wipes dispensers are available for use by guests.

CDC ignores crowded airports while holding cruise ships to double standard


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes going on a cruise ship is among one of the riskiest forms of travel during the current global health crisis, but has turned a blind eye to air travel and the complete lack of testing, distancing, or protocols to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Over the weekend, the CDC raised its warning about going on a cruise ship to the public to the highest level possible. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving holiday travel is beginning to peak and the CDC has held airports and airlines to no strict protocols.

While the cruise industry remains completely shutdown in North America with impossibly high standards instituted by the CDC, neither airports nor air travel have had any shutdown or forced regulation related to health protocols.

This double standard perfectly exemplifies how cruise lines are being unfairly targeted by the CDC, while air travel has faced no such restrictions despite being chiefly responsible for the spread of COVID-19 from continent to continent and country to country.

While the CDC did urge Americans to stay home for the holiday, millions will still fly around the United States and there are no stringent regulations placed on airports or airlines like there are for cruise ships.

CBS News reporter Kris Van Cleave said more than three million have been screened at Transportation Security Administration checkpoints since Friday. Sunday was the busiest day at airport checkpoints since March 16, and AAA expects up to 50 million Americans to travel.

Meanwhile, cruise ships remain unable to operate until the CDC signs off on a cruise ship demonstrating it can operate in a completely safe environment. Cruise lines are committing to 100% testing for all passengers and crew, enhanced HVAC and air circulation, and a multi-faceted approach to mitigate the risk of spread on a cruise ship.

In the executive summary from the last No Sail Order, the CDC Director warned cruise ship travel should not occur because it would facilitate the spread of the virus.

If unrestricted cruise ship passenger operations were permitted to resume, infected and exposed persons disembarking cruise ships would place federal partners (e.g., Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard), healthcare workers, port personnel, and communities at substantial unnecessary risk.

The same concern regarding cruise ship travel is affecting air travel without any of the safeguards.

Royal Caribbean pauses sale of cruises longer than 7 nights because of new CDC rules


Royal Caribbean will not sell any cruises longer than 7-nights until further notice in order to comply with new rules by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The CDC's Framework for Conditional Sailing Order stipulates that cruises longer than 7 nights and call on a U.S. port are not allowed while the CSO is in effect.

Therefore, Royal Caribbean sailings between Jan. 1 and Nov. 1, 2021 are "temporarily paused" while Royal Caribbean determines what to do with them.

The cruise line informed travel agents on Tuesday of the change, "To ensure compliance, we have temporarily paused the sale of such cruises as we evaluate options and determine the necessary itinerary updates or changes."

More information about the fate of these sailings will be coming "in coming weeks" once Royal Caribbean has an update to share.

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, touched briefly on the subject, "The eight-night cruises right now are on hold on pause from January 1st to November 1st, 2021. So we're still re-evaluating the whole situation." first reported last week that cruises longer than 7-nights had disappeared from the cruise line website for booking.

The specific rule in the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order clearly forbids cruises longer than 7-nights while the order is in effect.

"The cruise ship operator must not sail or offer to sail on an itinerary longer than 7 days. CDC may shorten or lengthen the number of days permitted to sail based on public health
considerations and as set forth in technical instructions or orders."

Royal Caribbean cruises do not typically exceed 7-nights in North America, but there are longer sailings to be found, especially repositioning cruises and sailings to more exotic locations. In addition, many cruises from the Northeast United States tend to be longer because of the time needed to travel to the warmer Caribbean waters.

In the brief update, Royal Caribbean did not indicate what changes would be made to these existing sailings, and if they would be shortened or cancelled.

Other cruise lines have pulled the plug on longer sailings already.

Carnival Cruise Line was one of the first cruise lines to remove sailings longer than 7-nights from its website.  Princess Cruises and Holland America Line have also done the same while they seek clarification on how to deal with this regulation.

Princess Cruises issued a statement regarding the change, "While we await further information, we have (temporarily) stopped selling all cruises eight days and longer which call upon a U.S. port and depart January 1 through November 1, 2021."

CDC raises warning against going on a cruise ship to highest level possible


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) raised its warning on Saturday to avoid going on any cruise ship because of "very high level of COVID-19".

The warning has gone from Level 3 to a Level 4 warning, and recommends avoiding any cruise ship (including river cruises) around the world. "because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high."

The CDC's 4-level system categorizes destinations, including international destinations and United States Territories, into the following four levels:

  • Level 4: Very high level of COVID-19
  • Level 3: High level of COVID-19
  • Level 2: Moderate level of COVID-19
  • Level 1: Low level of COVID-19

In addition to avoiding going on a cruise, anyone that does go on a cruise is recommended to get tested 3-5 days after your trip AND stay home for 7 days after travel. Even if you test negative, stay home for the full 7 days.

New Level 4 warning

Previous Level 3 warning

If you do not get tested, then the CDC recommends to stay at home for 14 days after the cruise completes.

The CDC has warned the public against taking cruises since March due to the global health emergency, but has steadily increased its warnings from an alert, to a watch, to a warning and now simply a "Very High Level of COVID-19".

In order to raise a warning to Level 4, it has to have an incidence rate of more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over past 28 days.

Warning details

The new warning is described as the CDC recommending avoiding any cruise ship, anywhere in the world, because the risk is "very high".

The CDC also noted people with an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 avoid cruise ships.

Moreover, the agency says anyone with a cruise booked should reschedule their cruise to a future date.

If you do go on a cruise, the CDC makes the following recommendations:

  • Do not board a cruise if you are sick, if you know you have COVID-19, or if you were exposed to a person with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  • Discuss cruise ship travel with your healthcare provider. Older adults and people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of severe illness if infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you. It’s important to do this everywhere—both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are in shared spaces, including when using public transportation.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Do not travel if you are sick.
  • If you get sick with symptoms of COVID-19, stay in your cabin and notify the onboard medical center immediately.

Framework for cruises to resume remains in place

While the level 4 warning was issued today, the framework for a phased resumption of cruise operations is still in effect.

In late October, the CDC lifted the No Sail Order cruise ship ban and replaced it with the Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships.

The CSO has three main phases:

  1. Testing and additional safeguards for crew members
  2. Simulated voyages to test cruise line ability to mitigate virus spread onboard
  3. Phased return to cruise ship passenger voyages

These phases are subject to change based on public health considerations and cruise ship operator's demonstrated ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk.

Healthy cruise plan

The entire cruise industry has adopted a broad new set of health protocols that exceed the rules and regulations imposed by other sectors of travel, such as calling for 100% testing.

The Healthy Sail Panel that created these new rules is chaired by Governor Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Recommendations include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals. 

The Healthy Sail Panel identified five areas of focus every cruise operator should address to improve health and safety for guests and crew, and reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships:

  • Testing, Screening and Exposure Reduction
  • Sanitation and Ventilation
  • Response, Contingency Planning and Execution
  • Destination and Excursion Planning
  • Mitigating Risks for Crew Members

In each category, the Healthy Sail Panel created practical and actionable recommendations to address specific safety concerns. Among the recommendations are key strategies such as:

  • Taking aggressive measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering a ship through robust education, screening and testing of both crew and guests prior to embarkation
  • Reducing transmission via air management strategies and enhanced sanitation practices
  • Implementing detailed plans to address positive infection on board, including contingencies for onboard treatment, isolation and rapid evacuation and repatriation
  • Closely controlling shore excursions
  • Enhanced protection for crew members

Furthermore, the CDC has been made aware of the panel and even invited to observe the planning and creation of procedures.