With the last extension of the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) expiring today, January 15, 2022, many cruisers are probably wondering, now what?
The CSO has been in place since October 2020 with the latest extension and minor modifications effective since November 1, 2021.
Despite the expiration of the CSO, cruise lines are encouraged to continue to follow all CDC public health measures. This includes reporting, testing, and infection prevention and control.
CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order Expires, Now What?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have released to the cruise industry a new voluntary program for continued health and safety measures on cruise ships. The CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters has been developed to assist the cruise ship industry in detecting, mitigating, and controlling the spread of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships.
Cruise lines will need to opt into this voluntary new program by January 21, 2022.
For cruise lines that opt in, they will need to continue to follow CDC guidance. Further, their ships will continue to be color coded on the CDC’s website.
For cruise lines that opt out, their ships will be color coded as gray. This means that the CDC has not reviewed the lines’ health and safety protocols.
It is likely that all cruise lines will opt into this new voluntary program by the CDC. Most are already going above and beyond these measures.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced Friday afternoon that the Company’s three brands — Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises — have already opted into this new program.
“The health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our number one priority. We have demonstrated this commitment since our return to service in July of last year, with protocols that exceeded those required by regulatory agencies, including 100% vaccination of guests and crew, universal testing of all guests prior to embarkation and routine testing of all crew,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.
Key Changes in New Voluntary Program
While the CDC’s website indicates that more information is coming soon, several media outlets have already reported some key changes.
In relation to the color coding status, the CDC has changed the investigation threshold which moves a ship from green status to orange or yellow status. This percentage will increase from 0.1% passenger cases (and/or 1 or more crew cases) to a combined 0.3% passenger and crew cases.
Also, cruise lines will no longer need to undergo the simulated voyage process to begin sailing a cruise ship.
Additionally, cruise lines can offer self-service food stations once again regardless of the ship’s percent of vaccination.
Testing requirements will remain in place.
Further, the CDC continues to require passengers wear masks in transportation hubs, like cruise terminals. The agency also continues to recommend that passengers wear masks while indoors on ships and outdoors in crowded settings.
Though, ships sailing at or above the 95% vaccination threshold may relax some of these protocols.
Cruise lines will also need to continue to enter into port agreements. Though, they will no longer need to present the signed contracts to the CDC.
What do you think of the news that the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order expires? Do you think most cruise lines will opt in to the new voluntary program? Drop us an anchor below to share your thoughts on this recent cruise news.
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