That Escalated Quickly: No Cruises To Sail Within The Next 100 Days In U.S. Waters Per CDC Orders

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the U.S. has issued an order restricting cruise ships from sailing in/out of U.S. ports (and waters entirely) for 100 days following publication in the national register.

This essentially means that until August there will be no commercial cruise traffic involving U.S. ports, at least none that includes passengers.

Just a few days ago I wrote about the CDC having put restrictions on cruise passengers, now no longer being allowed to take any commercial flights for 14 days post cruising and I already foresaw that this blanket policy wasn’t practical to keep going as the number of people makes an individual/chartered transport solution pretty much prohibitive due to effort and cost.

It didn’t take the CDC long to come up with a new announcement, now essentially freezing all cruise traffic for the next three months:

This order ceases operations of cruise ships in waters in which the United States may exert jurisdiction and requires that they develop a comprehensive, detailed operational plan approved by CDC and the USCG to address the COVID-19 pandemic through maritime focused solutions, including a fully implementable response plan with limited reliance on state, local, and federal government support.  These plans would help prevent, mitigate, and respond to the spread of COVID-19, by:

  • monitoring of passengers and crew medical screenings;
  • training crew on COVID-19 prevention;
  • managing and responding to an outbreak on board; and
  • submitting a plan to USCG and CDC for review

This Order shall continue in operation until the earliest of three situations. First, the expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency.  Second, the CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations.  Or third, 100 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

Additional information in the order includes:

  • Cruise ship operators are not allowed to disembark travelers (passengers or crew) at ports or stations, except as directed by the USCG, in consultation with HHS/CDC personnel, and as appropriate, as coordinated with federal, state, and local authorities.
  • Cruise ship operators should not embark or re-embark any crew member, except as approved by the USCG, in consultation with HHS/CDC personnel, until further notice.
  • While in port, cruise ship operators shall observe health precautions directed by HHS/CDC personnel.
  • The cruise ship operator should comply with all HHS/CDC, USCG, and other federal agency instructions to follow CDC recommendations and guidance for any public health actions relating to passengers, crew, ship, or any article or thing onboard the ship, as needed, including by making ship’s manifests and logs available and collecting any specimens for COVID-19 testing.

This essentially brings the cruise industry and movement of ships to a halt for likely the full three months or even beyond should the order be extended.

It does make sense as it would be counterproductive to put the entire country under stay home orders while constantly dispersing infected cruise passengers into the communities and domestic travel stream.

Cruise lines had initially following a “salami tactic” for the cancellation of their cruises, only cancelling them week by week and keeping their schedule for the summer active leaving many passengers in limbo. This is no longer an option anymore at this point.

Conclusion

There will be plenty of ships stationary in port for the summer, not doing anything except sitting idle with essential crew on board. Passengers can kiss their itineraries goodbye until at least August.

I’m not very confident my Alaska cruise in August will actually sail but Celebrity has been relatively good in answering phones and providing flexible options to me. I’d probably just reschedule it for May 2021 with a regular date change, keeping it as a cash booking. Personally I’m not a big fan of future cruise credits, I’d rather get a refund in cash and rebook if that’s the only option.

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