Final Countdown: Will The CDC Lift The Ban On Cruise Ships?

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The clock is ticking for the cruise industry as they await word from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on the status of the no sail order. The current no sail order is set to expire on Wednesday, September 30, 2020.

READ MORE: Cruise Industry Begs CDC Not To Extend No Sail Order

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Photo: Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines

Under the current no sail order — which was first imposed by the CDC back in March 2020 and later extended — cruise ships carrying over 250 guests are forbidden to cruise within U.S. jurisdiction. Cruise ships have only been allowed to lay up in U.S. ports or anchor offshore.

READ MORE: The Path To Reopening, Will Americans Cruise Next? 

During this time, many of the major lines used their ships to repatriate thousands of crew members who, thanks to various travel restrictions in place because of the same health crisis which had shut down cruises, were unable to get home.

What Determines If The CDC Will Lift the No Sail Order? 

(Photo via CDC)

While many considered the date listed on the no sail order as the earliest that ships would be able to return, that wasn’t exactly true. There were three different scenarios under which cruise lines would be able to resume service.  They were:

  1. The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that the crisis we were facing as a country was an official public health emergency.
  2. The CDC Director rescinding or modifying the order based on various criteria.
  3. The September 30, 2020 date passing and the CDC not extending the actual no sail order to a later date.

On Monday, September 21, 2020, two separate (but largely similar) plans were presented to the CDC. One was put forth by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) on behalf of all its members.

The second was the Healthy Sail Plan put together by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Group — consisting of government officials and infectious disease experts — outlining 74 steps that the cruise lines would specifically do in order to guarantee, as much as possible, the health and safety of those on board.

This included guidelines that would control nearly every aspect of life on board the ship for both crew and passengers.

No News Is Good News 

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Splashaway Bay at Perfect Day at CocoCay. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Earlier this summer, the CDC also put forth a request for public commentary on the issue of cruise lines resuming service. Between their original request for commentary and the Monday deadline, the organization received feedback from thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of life, including industry supporters and detractors.

When the CDC extended the original no sail order, it did so on the Thursday evening before it had been set to expire. Given that as of Friday morning, the latest order has not been extended, many are taking this as an indication that the current order may actually be allowed to expire next week.

In recent weeks, several cruise lines have made it clear they hope to begin sailing in early November. Already, sailings have resumed overseas with health protocols similar to those being suggested by CLIA and the Health Sail Panel in place.

One thing is certain, cruisers will have a much clearer picture by next week, when the current no sail order is set to expire.

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