More than a year after COVID-19 brought the cruise industry to a halt, it seems like some operators will be restarting operations sooner rather than later.
Just last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) committed itself to the resumption of cruising by releasing further clarification to its “Conditional Sailing Order.”
In a letter the CDC sent to U.S. cruise executives, the agency stipulated that if cruise lines can demonstrate at least 95 percent of passengers and 98 percent of crew are vaccinated, they can skip time-consuming “simulated” test voyages and begin cruising once again.
As the industry begins resume on a large scale, operations will be much different from before. From new safety protocols to different itineraries, here's what to expect as cruising returns in 2021.
Since cruise lines can physically move their operations to new ports and locations, COVID-19 may being about new itineraries and featured ports around the world.
Ships that might have been prevented from operating at U.S. homeports could be moved to embark at foreign ports. Some companies, such as Royal Caribbean, have taken advantage of their ships’ registries in Bermuda or The Bahamas and redeployed those vessels to sailings within those.
This will allow operators to book cruises for the upcoming summer season without having to adhere to U.S. restrictions.
In the Mediterranean, Norwegian and Celebrity are taking a similar approach and sticking to countries with less-restrictive requirements for international visitors. Their new itineraries feature Greece, Turkey, and Croatia as feature stops.
Vaccinations and Testing
A key part of the CDC’s updated guidelines allows cruise lines resume operations if almost all passengers and crew are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
The guidelines also allow vaccinated passengers to present results from faster, cheaper antigen tests prior to boarding instead of the more involved PCR test, although individual cruise lines may elect to impose more stringent requirements.
New vaccination requirements mean that there may be fewer children onboard, as some vaccines are not approved for children yet. While some lines will not allow children, others will allow unvaccinated children to sail with proof of a negative test.
Like many other economic sectors, the cruise industry is poised for a strong comeback based on pent-up demand and untapped travel budgets. However, the halt of operations for almost a year and a half has and will continue to have a significant impact on the industry.
With the CDC green-light, cruise passengers will soon be able to embark on large ship departures to once again enjoy life at sea. Even though cruises will look a little different in the future, it will be nice to finally return to cruising!