There’s finally some CDC news we want to hear
Well friends, did you hear the latest cruise news? There was a big headline that came out last night from USA today. The headline reads “US cruises could restart in mid July with 95% of passengers, fully vaccinated”. So here’s what happened. USA today obtained a copy of a letter that was sent from the CDC to the cruise industry. We waited until this morning to post this article and the accompanying video to make sure that this was all accurate.
Is this CDC news for real?
This morning, several sources in the cruise industry confirmed that they did in fact, receive this same letter from Aimee Treffiletti, the head of the maritime unit for the CDC’s COVID-19 response team. What the letter said is essential for knowing where we stand in the restart of cruises. In short, the CDC is basically modifying and simplifying the conditional sail order.
Five Important Changes to the Conditional Sail Order
Change #1: Specifically, they’re saying that ships can bypass the required a simulated test voyages carrying volunteers, and jump right to revenue sailings if 98% of the crew of the crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated. So where does that leave kids? We’re going to talk about kids cruising at the end of this article.
Change #2: The second main point in the letter states that the CDC will now respond to applications from the cruise lines for simulated voyages within 5 days, while a review previously was expected to take 60 days. This is somewhat confusing however, as the first point claims cruise lines can bypass the simulated tests sailing. So we’re speculating this means that some cruise lines may still want to do the simulated voyages and may not want to require all of their passengers to be fully vaccinated.
Bottom line – if the cruise line decides to still go ahead with simulated voyages (for whatever reason?), they’re going to get a faster response and that’ll be an option for them.
Change #3: The third point asserts that CDC will update its testing and quarantine requirements for passengers and crew on sailings with paying passengers to align with the CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people. We all saw the guidance change in the last week from the CDC. So, we think it’s going to mirror that CDC shift a little bit more. For example, instead of taking a PCR lab test ahead of boarding, if you’re a vaccinated passenger, they might allow you to just take a quick rapid antigen test upon embarkation.
This may encourage people to cruise because they wouldn’t have to worry about paying for a COVID test and risk getting a test and results within a short of time before their cruise. To some, this can add stress to travel, especially if you live in an area where getting test results back promptly is difficult.
Change #4: The CDC has clarified that cruise ship operators can now enter into what’s called a multi-port agreement rather than a single port agreement. From our understanding, this was a sticking point of the CSO with the cruise lines, who found the agreements burdensome and difficult to obtain in the manner requested by the CDC. It would seem that this change to the CSO was a negotiation between the CDC and the cruise lines.
Change #5: Lastly, the CDC has clarified guidance on quarantine guidelines for passengers who might be exposed to or contract COVID-19 on a ship. For example, if you’re a local passenger, they might just let you drive home. So – get off the ship in Florida, LA wherever, and just drive home instead of being quarantined. And if you’ve traveled by air, you might be able to quarantine at a hotel.
What does this all mean?
Essentially, the CDC is softening the conditional sail order, particularly for vaccinated cruisers. So what is next? The CDC has instructed the cruise lines to get through the phase of the CSO they are in quickly, so they can progress. That phase involves securing port agreements, which should happen faster now that multi port agreements are accepted.
Is there hope for Alaska?
Does this CDC news mean there’s hope for Alaska? There was an earnings call this morning with Royal Caribbean Group, and CEO, Richard Fain made some statements that are telling and impactful about the future. He said that they are glad to get these clarification’s and that they actually hope that they can get cruising back up to speed in time for an Alaska season.
So Royal Caribbean is saying, “we still have hope for Alaska”? You read that right. But, we’ll have to be patient to see how quicky the cruise ilnes can REALLY move through the Conditional Sail Order. And, equally important, the Alaska cruise season resuming would mean a workaround to to Canada’s ban on cruise ships would need to be reached as well. So far, nothing has been announced about cruise ships being exempted from the PVSA to allow Alaska cruises without a stop in Canada.
There are lots of details the cruise ilnes still need to hammer out with the CDC for a restart, and as Fain stated, that restart will be “gradual and deliberate”.
What about kids?
How does this CDC news affect kids who are too young to be vaccinated if 95% of passengers on cruise ships have to be vaccinated. That means that 5% don’t. Who are those 5%? Could they be children? Could they be people with medical exemptions to getting the vaccine? The truth is we just don’t know, but, but Michael Bailey and Richard Fain said that there’s a lot that they need to clarify with the CDC, and details such as these are most likely forthcoming.
However, cruising with kids is not out of the question. Fain stated, “what we really do have to do is study and discuss with the CDC and understand all of these different nuances. The CDC right now, as we know, has a 16 year old age restriction on the vaccines, but the CDC is going to be most likely dropping the vaccine age limit to age 12. That could open it up to kids between the age of 12 and 16.”
But where does that leave children under the age of 12? The truth is folks, we don’t know. What we DO know: this is progress, and the cruise lines seem to be pleased with the dialogue that’s taking place.
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