Cruises Are Cleared to Begin a Phased Restart in U.S. Waters This November

But don’t get too excited—Phase One is for crew members only.

Cruise Ships, Miami, Florida
John Coletti / Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dropped some seriously big news ahead of Halloween weekend—it’s finally going to let its strict No Sail Order expire. Cruises are cleared to begin a phased restart in U.S. waters as soon as Monday, Nov. 1. While this news may seem like a treat, true to the Halloween spirit, there’s also a bit of a trick. 

While the No Sail Order will be allowed to expire, it’s being replaced with the framework for a new “Conditional Sailing Order” that includes a phased path for resuming operations, starting with initial crew-only phases. 

“The initial phases will consist of testing and additional safeguards for crew members,” the CDC states in its 40-page overview of the conditional sailing framework. “Subsequent phases will include simulated voyages to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk, certification for ships that meet certain requirements, and a phased return to cruise ship passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates COVID-19 risk among passengers, crew, and U.S. communities."

So far, the requirements for pre-certification simulation voyages include having isolation cabins onboard for positive or symptomatic passengers, PCR testing at embarkation and again at disembarkation, COVID-19 testing for any passengers who become symptomatic while onboard, modified meal service, adequate ability to social distance, required face coverings, and enhanced cleaning protocols. 

Originally issued on March 14, 2020, the CDC’s No Sail Order prohibited cruise ships from operating from U.S. ports and within U.S. waters. The order came one day after the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, announced that all 50 of its members—which include U.S. cruising giants such as Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line, and Princess Cruises—had agreed to voluntarily pause operations for 30 days. Though the No Sail Order was initially supposed to only last 30 days, it has been repeatedly extended, lasting a whopping 231 days. 

The news of the move to lift the No Sail Order comes on the same day as several states in the U.S. are seeing record-breaking single-day increases in coronavirus cases and as the nation hits a staggering total of 9 million cases. 

Currently, there is no date listed for the restart of passenger cruises, though the new order does explicitly mention that no cruise ship will be able to resume passenger sailings until they are issued a Certificate of Conditional Sailing from the CDC. However, this isn’t likely to affect any upcoming sailings as most cruise lines have canceled or postponed their U.S. sailings through the rest of the year.

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Cruise Ship Guidance." October 30, 2020.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC Covid-19 Orders for Cruise Ships." October 30, 2020.