Just weeks after letting their No Sail Order expire on Oct. 30, 2020, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention is sending mixed messages with a strong recommendation that ‘all people’ avoid cruises because of the high risk for onboard COVID-19 transmission.
While the murky message didn’t coincide with another official ban on cruise sailings, the warning net was tossed a lot wider this time. While the seven-month No Sail Order prohibited any cruise ships with over 250 passenger capacity from sailing from U.S. ports or within U.S. waters, the public health institute’s new Level 4 advisory includes all cruises, including river cruises, anywhere in the world.
“At this time, CDC still recommends avoiding any travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high,” says the notice posted on their official site. “Cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships.”
The new advisory comes on the heels of a recent outbreak on the SeaDream Yacht Club’s 53-passenger SeaDream 1. As the first cruise sailing to start back up in the Caribbean, it was set up to be a hopeful beacon showing the world how effective new COVID-19 health and safety—which included mandatory COVID-19 testing for passengers and crew before boarding, followed by regular onboard testing—could be. Instead, a passenger became ill and tested positive on day four. The ship immediately went into lockdown. In the end, a total of seven passengers tested positive. The cruise line has since canceled all of its remaining sailings for 2020.
While a small outbreak is alarming in and of itself, it’s worth noting that the testing protocol aboard the SeaDream 1 was actually a little more than what was outlined in the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, the still-being-determined requirements that cruise ships must meet to restart sailings with actual passengers.
While this doesn’t bode well for the cruise industry, all hope is not lost since, as mentioned, the CDC has not rescinded their Conditional Sailing Order in favor of returning to a full-on ban. Looks like it’s just back to the drawing board.
Through its website, the CDC is reminding potential cruises that “for most travelers, cruise ship travel is voluntary and should be rescheduled for a future date.” For those who must go on a cruise or still choose to cruise despite the warning, they’ve outlined a list of common sense precautions to follow, such as not getting on a cruise if you’re feeling sick, avoiding contact with anyone on board who is sick, washing your hands frequently, and staying at least six feet apart from fellow passengers. They also advise anyone who goes on a cruise to get tested between 3-5 days after returning and staying quarantined for seven full days regardless of a negative test.