Cruise Lines Could Start U.S. Sailings by Mid-July, CDC Says

Cruise ships such as the Norwegian Gem, seen here in Miami this month, could resume U.S. operations by Mid-July, the CDC said.

Photo: chandan khanna/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Cruise operators could restart sailings out of the U.S. by mid-July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, paving the way to resume operations that have been suspended for longer than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The CDC, in a letter to cruise-industry leaders Wednesday evening, also said cruise ships can proceed to passenger sailings without test cruises if they attest that 98% of crew members and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated. The move was a result of twice-weekly meetings with cruise representatives over the past month, the agency said.

Under the conditional-sail order put in place in October, cruise operators were required to conduct test cruises and apply for a certificate at least 60 days before offering passenger cruises. The CDC on Wednesday said it would now review and respond to applications for simulated voyages within five days.

“This puts cruise ships closer to open-water sailing sooner,” the CDC said.

The CDC also loosened testing and quarantine requirements for passengers and crew. For the first passenger voyages out of the U.S., fully vaccinated people can now take a rapid test upon embarkation instead of a polymerase chain-reaction test, the CDC said. Passengers will be able to quarantine at home if they are within driving distance, the agency added.

The agency said passenger voyages could restart by mid-July if operators submit documents related to port agreements as soon as possible. Cruise operators can enter into an agreement with multiple ports as opposed to a single-port agreement given that all relevant port and local health authorities are signatories.

The loosening of the requirements brings cruise operators, which have lost billions of dollars over the past year to sailing suspensions, closer to the opportunity of generating revenue. The industry recently clashed with the CDC as it asked the agency to remove the sailing framework and let cruises restart in the U.S. starting July. The state of Florida also sued the U.S. government to invalidate the framework.

In their bid to resume cruises, companies have promised various health and safety measures. For instance, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. has said it would require passengers and crew to be vaccinated at least two weeks before embarking on a ship.

Write to Dave Sebastian at dave.sebastian@wsj.com

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Appeared in the April 29, 2021, print edition as ‘CDC Paves Way to Resume Cruises.’

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