Trump administration paves the way for a November restart to cruising in North America

Oct 1, 2020

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late Wednesday extended its “no-sail” order for cruise ships operating out of U.S. ports by just a single month, paving the way for a November restart to cruising in North America.

Initially announced in March and extended in April and July, the order had been scheduled to expire on Wednesday. But it now will remain in place through Oct. 31.

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The limited extension of the order came just a day after a White House meeting where top Trump administration officials overruled CDC Director Robert Redfield on a longer extension of the order that would last through Feb. 15, 2021, according to Axios, which cited unnamed sources.

The news outlet said public health officials privately complained that the shortening of the order was politically motivated, as the cruise industry is a major economic presence in Florida — a key swing state in the upcoming presidential election.

The cruise industry and its supporters have lobbied hard in recent weeks for the order to be lifted, citing the economic benefits of the cruise industry to workers in Florida and elsewhere.

“‘Enough is enough,” was the way Norwegian Cruise Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio put it to a hearing in Miami earlier this month that saw several industry leaders call for a cruising restart.

Del Rio said the cruise industry was close to “devastation.”

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

The 3,690-passenger Carnival Magic. (Photo courtesy of Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line)
Cruise giant Carnival has canceled all October sailings but still is selling cruises for November. (Photo courtesy of Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line)

In extending the order, the CDC made clear that the scientists at the agency think it’s too soon to allow cruise ships to resume sailing.

“Cruise ship travel markedly increases the risk and impact of the COVID-19 disease epidemic within the United States,” the agency said in the text of the order. “If unrestricted cruise ship passenger operations were permitted to resume, infected and exposed persons disembarking cruise ships would place federal partners (e.g. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard), healthcare workers, port personnel and communities at substantial unnecessary risk.”

One multi-page segment of the order, titled “dangers of prematurely resuming passenger operations on cruise ships,” cited a string of COVID scares on ships in Europe and elsewhere that recently have resumed sailings.

Related: COVID scare on Mediterranean cruise is ‘false alarm,’ says line

The new end date of Oct. 31 for the order matches the date through which cruise lines had already said they would cancel all sailings. The industry in recent weeks has been hinting at a November restart to North American sailings, pending approval from the CDC.

One small cruise operator, SeaDream Yacht Club, already has announced definitive plans to restart North American sailings on Nov. 7.

As part of gearing up for a comeback, the industry’s big players in recent weeks have been releasing lists of new safety guidelines that they will follow to ensure the new coronavirus doesn’t spread on ships.

The guidelines include requirements for COVID tests for every passenger and crew, limits on shore touring, social distancing rules for ships and mask-wearing on ships in some cases.

Cruising has resumed in a very limited way in recent months in parts of Europe and a few other regions of the world including French Polynesia. But cruises out of U.S. ports have remained on hold due to the CDC order.

Related: These 9 cruise lines have resumed limited sailings

The order forbids cruise companies from operating passenger trips out of U.S. ports or calling at U.S. ports with passengers.

The order does not apply to cruise vessels designed to carry fewer than 250 people (passengers and crew combined).

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean

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