When will we be able to sail again? Not anytime soon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday extended its no-sail order for cruise ships in the U.S., with no firm return date announced. The order delivers a devastating blow to an industry already in freefall after major cruise lines abruptly halted operations in mid-March because of the coronavirus.
On March 14, the CDC issued the first no-sail order for ships that sail in U.S. waters after COVID-19 outbreaks on several ships. The new order details conditions that have to be met before cruises may resume.
The order says the agency is working with the cruise industry to include strict new public health actions for ships, including “a fully implementable response plan with limited reliance on state, local and federal government support,” for the CDC and the Coast Guard to review.
Actions include requiring medical screenings of passengers and crew members, training crew members on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and managing and responding to an outbreak on board ships.
It also says: “Cruise ship operators are not allowed to disembark travelers (passengers or crew) at ports or stations, except as directed by the [Coast Guard], in consultation with [Health and Human Services]/CDC personnel, and as appropriate, as coordinated with federal, state and local authorities.”
The rule applies to the estimated 100 cruise ships at sea off both U.S. coasts and the Gulf of Mexico, carrying almost 80,000 crew members on board. Twenty of those ships are known to be carrying crew members with “known or suspected” COVID-19 infections, the CDC order said.
The cruising ban will remain in place until the earliest of these actions, the order says: Federal health officials declare the public health emergency over, the CDC “rescinds or modifies” the order, or 100 days from the date the order is published in the Federal Register.
Prior to the extended ban, cruise lines had been giving refunds or credits for future cruises to passengers whose trips were canceled.
Cruise Line International Assn., an industry organization, says cruising supports more than 421,000 American jobs and brings more than $50 billion to the U.S. economy, supporting a network of travel-related industries, such as hotels, airlines, etc.