Cruise ships can start trial cruises under new CDC rules

A handout photo from Princess Cruises shows one of the company's ships.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is laying out what cruise ships need to do to undertake simulated voyages with volunteer passengers as part of its COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate application.

The CDC is laying out eligibility and requirements.  Cruise ships will need to request permission at least 30 days in advance to conduct a trial voyage with adult volunteer passengers.

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All volunteer passengers will need to show proof of vaccination or written documentation from a healthcare provider that they have no medical conditions that would put them at risk of severe COVID-19.

The minimum number of required passengers must be at least 10% of the maximum number of passengers permitted on board when operating normally.

The company must provide written notification to advise volunteer passengers that they are participating in health and safety protocols that are unproven and untested in the United States for purposes of simulating a cruise ship voyage and that sailing during a pandemic is an inherently risky activity.  The notification can occur on a website, by email, or by written letter to the volunteer passengers.

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The crew will need to test every member of the crew as part of the rules.

Simulated voyages must be between 2-7 days in length with a least one overnight stay to test the efficacy of the cruise ship operator’s ability to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 onboard the cruise ship, including through embarkation, disembarkation, and post-disembarkation testing.

The cruise ship operator must modify meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing during the simulated voyage.

It is also offering guidance for inspections of cruise ships conducted by CDC during simulated and restricted passenger voyages.  

After cruise lines meet the guidance and are granted a COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate, they will be permitted to sail with passengers.

The CDC says it will be updating online documents to incorporate changes to quarantine, testing, color status, and lessons learned from simulated voyages.

In lieu of conducting a simulated voyage, cruise ship operator may confirm to CDC that 98 percent of crew are fully vaccinated and submit to CDC a clear and specific vaccination plan and timeline to limit cruise ship sailings to 95 percent of passengers who have been verified by the cruise ship operator as fully vaccinated prior to sailing.