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CDC’s cruise line guidance to become voluntary as COVID continues to spread

CDC's cruise line guidance to become voluntary as COVID continues to spread

Beginning Saturday, cruise ships will no longer be required to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19. 

Instead, the agency will transition to a voluntary coronavirus risk mitigation program for ships when its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) expires on Jan. 15, a CDC spokesperson confirmed to FOX Business on Thursday.

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The CDC has sent information about the voluntary program to the cruise industry and anticipates operators will decide on whether to participate in the coming week. Additional information on the program will be released following the CSO’s expiration. 

Cruise ships float at PortMiami on April 7, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (AP Images)

Ships that operate in U.S. waters and sail on international itineraries that choose not to participate in the program will be designated as gray under the agency’s Cruise Ship Color Status webpage, indicating that the CDC has not reviewed or confirmed the cruise ship operator’s health and safety protocols. Those sailing only in U.S. waters will not be listed. 

Meanwhile, the CDC’s maritime unit will continue to work closely with participating cruise ships, monitoring COVID-19 preventive measures and onboard cases through daily enhanced data collection and inspections. 

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The Cruise Line International Association said the CDC’s decision “recognizes the cruise industry’s unwavering commitment to providing some of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation found in any industry” and that its members will “continue to be guided by the science and the principle of putting people first.” 

The CLIA noted in a statement that cruises are the only segment of travel and tourism that require “exceedingly high levels of vaccination (approaching 100% compared to only 63% of the U.S. population) and 100% testing of every individual (21 times the rate of the U.S. on land)” prior to embarkation for both passengers and crew. 

When cases are identified as a result of the high-frequency of testing onboard, cruise ship protocols help to maximize onboard containment with rapid response procedures designed to safeguard all other guests and crew as well as the communities that the ships visit,” the CLIA said.

In addition, it emphasized that cruises are the only sector that continuously monitors, collects and reports case information directly to the CDC.

“Given this oversight and the uniquely high vaccination rate required on board, the incidence of serious illness is dramatically lower than on land, and hospitalizations have been extraordinarily rare even during a time landside hospitalizations are peaking,” the CLIA added.   

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The move comes as the surge in cases of the omicron variant have prompted Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line to pause operations on several of their ships last week. The ships that have been affected are as follows:

Royal Caribbean Delays/Cancellations

  • Vision of the Seas’ return to cruising is postponed until March 7
  • Serenade of the Seas is canceling sailings from Jan. 8  to March 5, returning after dry dock on April 26
  • Jewel of the Seas is canceling sailings from Jan. 9  to Feb. 12, returning on Feb. 20
  • Symphony of the Seas is canceling sailings from Jan. 8 to 22 and returning on Jan. 29

Norwegian Cruise Line Cancellations

  • Norwegian Getaway cruise with embarkation date of Jan. 5
  • All Norwegian Pearl cruises with embarkation dates through and including Jan. 14
  • All Norwegian Sky cruises with embarkation dates through and including Feb. 25
  • All Pride of America cruises with embarkation dates through and including Feb. 26
  • All Norwegian Jade cruises with embarkation dates through and including March 3
  • All Norwegian Star cruises with embarkation dates through and including March 19
  • All Norwegian Sun cruises with embarkation dates through and including April 19
  • All Norwegian Spirit cruises with embarkation dates through and including April 23

Royal Caribbean is offering impacted guests “assistance and compensation options,” including a full refund, while Norwegian is giving guests an automatic full refund as well as a bonus future cruise credit. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
RCL ROYAL CARIBBEAN GROUP 84.36 +2.09 +2.54%
NCL n.a. n.a. n.a. n.a.

The U.S. reported 797,216 new cases on Tuesday, a day after breaking a single-day record with more than 1.3 million cases.

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