The USA's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued on Friday, April 2, the next phase of its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which will lead to getting cruise ships again sailing in U.S. waters.
The CDC's initial conditional sailing order came out in late October 2020, and since then cruise operators have been waiting for further guidance. Recent calls by the industry have urged the Centers not to wait any longer to hasten the U.S. return to cruising. Cruise ships have been unable to sail in United States waters for over a year due to the pandemic despite voyages elsewhere around the world.
In an announcement late Friday, the Centers said the second phase of the order would include trial cruises to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers prior to sailing with paying guests.
The CDC update, described as "technical guidance," includes a requirement to increase COVID-19 reporting frequency to daily. It updates a color-coding system used to classify vessels related to COVID-19 as well as addresses routine testing of crew members based on the ship's color and further clarifies lab parameters and testing options.
However, there is still no clarity on when cruise ships can commence operations in U.S. waters again.
In a news release, the CDC said:
"Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult. While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, following the phases of the CSO will ensure 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."
Major cruise lines delayed their restart dates multiple times since the conditional sailing order was issued as they waited for the Centers' further guidance.