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CDC guidance to allow cruise lines to apply for trial trips with volunteer passengers

CDC guidance to allow cruise lines to apply for trial trips with volunteer passengers
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the final guidance on Wednesday for cruise lines to apply to run test trips with volunteer passengers, signifying a step closer toward normalcy for the industry. 

The simulated cruises would be designed to test the cruise lines’ COVID-19 precautions before ships would be permitted to return with paying travelers to U.S. waters for the first time since shutting down in March 2020. 

The CDC suggests that cruise lines submit the necessary information and request the agency’s approval for any test cruises at least 30 days ahead of the departure. 

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“With the issuance of these documents, cruise ship operators now have all the necessary requirements and recommendations they need to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages,” the guidance reads. 

Cruise lines can skip the step of trial trips if they require at least 95 percent of passengers and at least 98 percent of crew members to be vaccinated. 

For the simulated cruises, the CDC requires at least 10 percent passenger capacity and last two to seven days long. Excursions can only involve tours with passengers and crew from the same ship with participants wearing masks and social distancing.

Participants do not need to be fully vaccinated, but if they are not, they have to provide a note from a health care provider saying they aren’t at risk for severe COVID-19. They also have to agree to be checked for symptoms before getting on and off the ship and have to be tested three to five days after disembarking. 

The CDC requires at least one test cruise be conducted for every ship that plans to take paying customers. After the ships conduct their trial runs, the cruise lines can apply for a COVID-19 conditional sailing certificate to travel with paying customers.

The new guidance is a part of the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which has operated as a phased approach to reopening and was first implemented in October after the no-sail order ended. 

The CDC’s framework initially detailed more than 70 steps the cruise lines would need to follow to bring on paying passengers for trips before the final set of protocols were released on Wednesday. 

It also follows after the CDC sent a letter to cruise lines last week saying they could resume sailing as soon as July. The letter was first obtained by USA Today and Reuters.