The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the extension of a No Sail Order for cruise ships carrying more than 250 passengers in waters over which the United States has jurisdiction.
“We are working with the cruise line industry to address the health and safety of crew at sea as well as communities surrounding U.S. cruise ship points of entry,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield in a media release announcing the No Sail Order. “The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect Americans, and we will continue to provide critical public health guidance to the industry to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on its workforce throughout the remainder of this pandemic.”
The CDC Order
The order effectively bans cruise ship operations in light of the COVID-19 epidemic until the earliest of any of three conditions is met:
1- If the Secretary of Health and Human Services declares that the COVID-19 public health emergency has expired;
2- If the CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order, based on public health or other considerations;
3- 100 days from the date of publication (April 9) of the order in the Federal Register.
The industry association, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), voluntarily suspended cruise ship operations on March 14 in conjunction with an earlier order issued by the CDC.
The new order means that, at the very soonest, cruise lines aren’t likely to be sailing before mid-July, 2020. Cruise Critic maintains an updated list of current cruise line suspensions. Some cruise lines had been optimistic about earlier sailings—prior to the issuance of this order.
The new CDC order also requires that ships develop “a comprehensive plan approved by CDC and the USCG [U.S. Coast Guard] to address the COVID-19 pandemic through maritime focused solutions, including a fully implementable response plan with limited reliance on state, local, and federal government support.”
Key elements of the plan include medical screenings of passengers and crew, training crew on OVID-19 prevention, and strategies for managing and responding to outbreaks on board. This essentially makes cruise lines, rather than governmental entities, responsible for addressing issues related to the virus.
The CDC goes on to note that currently, approximately 100 cruise ships still remain at sea off the East Coast, West Coast, and Gulf Coast, with nearly 80,000 crew onboard. Additionally, the CDC is aware of 20 cruise ships at port or anchorage in the United States with known or suspected COVID-19 infection among the crew who remain onboard.
Media reports have highlighted the difficulties of these and other ships with ill passengers and/or crew being turned away from ports where they might receive medical care. The situation was exacerbated when the U.S. Coast Guard issued a Safety Bulletin on March 29th instructing all foreign-flagged ships with more than 50 passengers to prepare to care “for individuals with ILIs [influenza-like illnesses] for an indefinite period of time.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of the travel industry, experts agree that the cruising industry, in particular, will need to make fundamental changes to restore consumer confidence.
For more information from the CDC about COVID-19 and cruise ships, see: