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In an effort to get cruises going from the US, the CDC issued guidance for the cruise lines to begin sailing test cruises.
CDC Issues Guidance for Test Voyages
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention outlined requirements for test cruises using volunteer passengers. The guidelines aim to resume sailing in the safest possible manner with regard to spreading COVID-19 infections.
“With the issuance of these documents, cruise ship operators now have all the necessary requirements and recommendations they need to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages,” the CDC said in a press release. “In addition, this release includes the COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate application, which is the final step before restricted passenger voyages.”
“CDC is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the CSO (Conditional Sail Order),” the press statement said. “This goal aligns with the prospective resumption of passenger operations in the United States by mid-summer, expressed by many major cruise ship operators and travelers.”
As per prior guidance from the CDC, cruise lines could resume sailing without any test voyages provided the ships maintain 98% of its crew and 95% of its passengers fully vaccinated.
“In lieu of conducting a simulated voyage, cruise ship operator responsible officials, at their discretion, may sign and submit to CDC an attestation … that 98 percent of crew are fully vaccinated and submit to CDC a clear and specific vaccination plan and timeline to limit cruise ship sailings to 95 percent of passengers who have been verified by the cruise ship operator as fully vaccinated prior to sailing,” says the CDC.
CDC Requirements for Test Voyages
Among the CDC requirements for simulated voyages:
- Cruise ships must provide written notification to be signed by volunteer passengers that they “are participating in health and safety protocols that are unproven and untested in the United States for purposes of simulating a cruise ship voyage and that sailing during a pandemic is an inherently risky activity.”
- Cruise operators must have written agreements with all U.S. ports and local health authorities where it will visit addressing how medical care would be handled. This includes evacuation and medical transport to hospitals and housing at shoreside facilities for isolation and quarantine if needed.
- The cruise line must ensure all volunteer passengers – who must be age 18 and up – have either proof of being fully vaccinated or written documentation from a healthcare provider or self-certified statement that the volunteer has no medical conditions that would place them at high risk for severe COVID-19.
- The cruise line must meet standards for hand hygiene, use of face masks, and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation. Ships must modify meal service and entertainment venues to allow social distancing during the simulated voyage.
- Simulated voyages must be between two and seven days long with a least one overnight stay, although it recommends a minimum voyage of three days with two overnight stays.
- Self-guided or independent exploration by passengers during port calls is prohibited. Shore excursions must only include passengers and crew from the same ship. And cruise lines must ensure all shore excursion companies follow social distancing, mask wearing, and other COVID-19 public health measures during the tour.
- Testing of all passengers on the day of embarkation and disembarkation with same-day results.
The CDC recommends that all port personnel, passengers and crew get a COVID-19 vaccine when available to them.
“CDC acknowledges that it is not possible for cruising to be a zero-risk activity for spread of COVID-19,” the press statement said. “While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, CDC is committed to ensuring that cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern.”
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Would you volunteer for a test cruise voyage when they become available? Let us know in the comments.