Operations will be suspended until December 31 to allow for implementations of Covid-19 safety measures
The Cruise Lines International Association (Clia) has announced that its members will maintain the ongoing voluntary suspension of cruise operations in the US until December 31, 2020.
Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US health body, changed its ‘no sail’ cruise order to a ‘conditional sailing order’.
But Clia has now said that its members will use the remainder of the year to prepare for the implementation of extensive measures to address Covid-19 safety with the guidance of outside public health experts and the CDC.
The announcement followed a spate of cruise companies – including Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean – suspending sailings until 2021.
The association issued the following statement on behalf of its members:
As we continue to plan for a gradual and highly-controlled return of cruise operations in the US, Clia members are committed to implementing stringent measures to address Covid-19 safety, including 100 per cent testing of passengers and crew, expanded onboard medical capabilities and trial sailings, among many others. We share a common goal with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect public health, which has been affirmed and reaffirmed consistently throughout the industry’s response to the global pandemic. As we work to operationalise a path forward, our members have agreed to extend our existing suspension of US operations through December 31. This action will provide additional time to align the industry’s extensive preparation of health protocols with the implementation requirements under the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase Covid-19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew. We recognise the devastating impact that the pandemic continues to have on the 421,000 Americans whose livelihoods are connected directly to cruise operations. We will work with urgency to advance a responsible return to cruising while maintaining a focus on effective, science-based measures to protect public health.
“The initial phases will consist of testing and additional safeguards for crew members,” the CDC said. It has been reported that initial cruises will not have paying passengers on board, to prove to the authorities that they can be run safely.
“CDC will ensure cruise ship operators have adequate health and safety protections for crew while these cruise ship operators build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers. Subsequent phases will include simulated voyages to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate Covid-19 risk, certification for ships that meet specific requirements, and a phased return to cruise ship passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates Covid-19 risk among passengers, crew members, and US communities.
“These phases are subject to change based on public health considerations and cruise ship operators’ demonstrated ability to mitigate Covid-risk. CDC will issue additional orders as needed that will be published in the Federal Register and technical instructions that will be subsequently posted on CDC’s website.”
In the UK, Saga has postponed Spirit of Discovery’s return to service until April 2021, with Spirit of Adventure’s inaugural cruise now rescheduled for May 4, 2021.
Andy Harmer, director, Clia UK & Ireland, on the safety measures the industry is taking as it gets ready to resume sailing
The Covid-19 crisis has presented the world with new challenges unprecedented in scale, affecting every setting where people come together and enjoy shared experiences, including restaurants, hotels, theatres and, yes, cruise ships.
Since the voluntary suspension of operations, Clia members have been dedicating time and resources to further strengthening the already strict health protocols our industry has in place.
In October, the cruise industry published new framework documents for cruise ship operators to implement new measures with enhanced public health protection. The framework was the culmination of months of collaboration between cruise operators, industry partners, health experts and the UK government.
This will help inform the restart of the cruise industry when the time is right and public health conditions allow. There is currently no restart date for cruise in the UK, but the framework is a vital first step in the process to get cruises sailing again when government guidance changes. The rigour and detailed planning that has gone into these framework documents demonstrates the commitment of the cruise industry to caring for public health and upholding robust and uniform safety measures.
Globally, Clia is working with its members to establish an industry-wide Covid-19 policy for its ocean-going cruise line members that will be informed by the guidance and recommendations of global health authorities and outside experts in health and science.
In October, Clia announced a travel industry first as its ocean cruise line members worldwide agreed to conduct 100 per cent testing of passengers and crew on all ships with a capacity to carry 250 or more persons — with a negative test required for any embarkation.
Clia ocean-going cruise lines are responsible for introducing the testing requirement, and testing methods may vary based on emerging technology and availability of different testing methods at the time. A negative test is required prior to boarding for both passengers and crew, and crew must undergo additional precautionary measures, including obtaining negative test results prior to leaving their homes, prior to embarkation, upon conclusion of a minimum seven-day quarantine, and at least once monthly.
The cruise industry is taking a multi-layered approach to the measures and protocols, demonstrating our commitment to making the health, safety and wellbeing of passengers, crew and the communities we visit our top priority.
On course for the future
With limited resumption now underway in Europe and other parts of the world, these sailings give us confidence that we are on the right course. While some measures are a global requirement, there will also be additional protocols in place that are specific to the region in which the ship is sailing and/or the individual cruise line. As such, passengers who are booked on upcoming itineraries are encouraged to consult with their travel advisors to understand the policies of the individual cruise lines with which they plan to sail.
As we look towards the future, health and safety will remain at the heart of everything we do, and while these new measures mean cruises will be slightly different than what we are used to, what will not change is the fantastic service provided by crew and the unique experiences that only a cruise holiday can provide. By navigating with courage, confidence and purpose, we can sail forward together to help make the future of cruise stronger and better than ever – and the best way to experience the world. Clia travel agents can keep up to date with the latest information regarding resumption and protocols via cruising.org.
Read our feature about safety protocols in this issue