CDC extends Covid restrictions for cruise ship industry into January

People come out to watch the new Carnival Cruise Line Mardi Gras depart on its maiden voyage, a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean from Port Canaveral, Florida on July 31, 2021.

Paul Hennessy | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended January restrictions on the cruise ship industry that were set to expire next week, citing concerns about a highly contagious delta variant and breakouts among vaccinated travelers.

The CDC has allowed cruise ships to operate under conditions since October 2020, which require masks on board and vaccinations or testing for passengers and crew, among other safety precautions. Although the agency planned to raise the request by November 1, the extension on Monday will become a voluntary measure for cruise operators on January 15.

“Measures put in place to resume passenger transportation have avoided the enormous burden of onboard medical facilities and overburdening hospital resources on the beach,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Monday. “However, the CDC has decided to extend the order temporarily due to the continued prevalence of the delta variant.”

All foreign-flagged cruise ships carrying at least 250 passengers must comply with the order and provide the CDC with access to their ships and passenger health records upon request to ensure compliance. Cruise lines that fail to obtain a Covid-19 conditional sailing certificate from the CDC will be barred from operating in US waters.

To obtain certification, cruise operators are required to train their crews in Covid prevention methods and implement their own testing and quarantine standards. They must also “provide a standard of hospital care” by providing their ships with ventilators, masks and other protective equipment for Covid patients “without the immediate need to rely on hospitalization on shore,” according to the order.

The CDC’s conditional cruise order also requires cruise operators to test passengers and staff for Covid before embarking, ban any suspected Covid patients from boarding and isolate those infected away from other travelers and staff. Cruise ships must also allow for appropriate social distancing during dining and entertainment and comply with all federal hygiene standards for concealment and sanitation.


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