CDC update shows how cruises may look different: masks by pool, no buffets – Business Insider

  • The CDC has unveiled the next two phases of its Conditional Sailing Order.
  • The new phases detail how a cruise’s “simulated” trail sailings should look.
  • New requirements include masking up when poolside, and the potential ceasing of buffet services.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On May 5, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines on how cruise lines should go about trial voyages, providing some insight into how cruising could look when it finally returns after over a year of no-sailing.

In the newly released next two phases of its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), the CDC detailed protocols that should be implemented on these “simulated voyages,” adding that cruise lines now have all the information needed to begin their trials. These sailings are meant to precede the COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate application needed to resume “restricted passenger voyages” again.

However, cruise lines that can prove that 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated will be allowed to skip this test sailing period.

It’s one step closer to the resumption of sailing in July after over a year of no large cruise ships in US waters, but according to the CDC’s guidelines, cruising may not look the same as pre-COVID-19 times. 

“These instructions reflect CDC’s reasoned judgement based on the best available current science regarding the subject areas covered in the document,” the CDC wrote in its “COVID-19 Operations Manual for Simulated and Restricted Voyages under the CSO.” “Cruise ship operators should carefully consider and incorporate these instructions in developing their own health and safety protocols.”

Read more: Carnival and Royal Caribbean salaries revealed: From $32,000 to $383,000, here’s how much the cruise industry’s power players pay some of their employees

The CDC’s “requirements” and “recommendations”

roller coaster on Carnival Cruise Line's Mardi Gras ship
The roller coaster on Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras ship.
Carnival

It should be unsurprising that COVID-19 pandemic protocols are steeped into the trial sailings manual. As a result, some of the CDC’s guidelines will completely alter what traditional cruising once looked like. 

The updated manual advises the typical protocols we’ve all grown accustomed to during the pandemic, including reducing face-to-face contact and social distancing around the ship. But if you long for the days of buffets and maskless lounging by the pool, cruise ships may not be the way to go.

The CDC’s mask order will be applied to the ships unless a passenger is eating or drinking for a short amount of time. or inside their own cabin. However, not wearing a mask during an “extended meal service or beverage consumption” is still considered a violation of the mask order.

This means masking up while on the pool deck as well. And while masks won’t have to be worn in the pool, water goers will still have to social distance.

This social distancing guideline will also apply to entertainment areas like show venues, casinos, and mini-golfing, and is why the CDC recommends encouraging passengers to take the stairs instead of elevators if possible.

In regards to dining, the guideline says cruise ships should consider letting passengers order meals ahead of time to limit their duration inside a restaurant, and offer prepackaged meals and single-use items like utensils and menus to limit contact. In line with this, the CDC is advocating for the end of buffet services aboard cruise ships.

The agency also recommends implementing “wearable recording technology [like] proximity bands” to create some form of onboard contact tracing that could tell the wearer when they’re not adhering to social distancing guidelines.

And when it’s time to disembark a ship for shore excursions, options may be limited. The CDC says cruise lines can’t allow “self-guided or independent exploration” at ports, and tour companies must still follow COVID-19 protocols like mask-wearing and social distancing. 

“CDC is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the CSO,” the agency said in the press release. “This goal aligns with the prospective resumption of passenger operations in the United States by mid-summer, expressed by many major cruise ship operators and travelers.”

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