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CDC releases next steps for cruise ships

Updated: Jul 4, 2021



Celebrity Cruise Celebrity Edge at sea CDC headquarters building sign: Celebrity Cruise Blog
Celebrity Cruise Celebrity Edge at sea CDC headquarters building sign



On May 5 the CDC updated its guidelines and conditional framework as well as releasing its next two steps which must be met in order for cruise ships to begin sailing out of the United States again.


“With the issuance of these next two phases, cruise ship operators now have all the necessary requirements and recommendations they need to start simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages and apply for a COVID-19 conditional sailing certificate to begin sailing with restricted passenger voyages. CDC may adjust these requirements and recommendations based on public health considerations and other factors.” According to the CDC website.




Phase 2b: Test Cruises


Cruise lines must apply at least 30 days in advance of the date they want to start test cruises. In addition the application needs to have the dates of voyages and where the ship will visit as well as confirming that CDC guidelines will be met in the Conditional Sail Order (CSO). The cruise lines must also outline the protocols and procedures to be used on the sailings. Test cruises may be skipped if 98 percent of the crew is vaccinated and 95% of guests are vaccinated. The CDC may monitor the cruise in-person or remotely.



Test Cruise Volunteers

  • All volunteers must be over 18 years old and provide proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

  • The number of volunteers aboard the cruise must be at least 10% of the restricted capacity of the restricted revenue cruises.

  • Volunteers must be informed of the risk of going on these test voyages.

  • Volunteers can not be compensated nor rewarded for travel on test cruises.

  • Volunteers must be tested 3-5 days after completion of voyage and must report any Covid like symptoms or positive Covid-19 test results.

  • The Cruise lines must report data to the CDC.



Test sailing requirements

  • Voyages must be 2-7 nights in length and must occur on each ship that cruise lines want to have restricted revenue voyages on.

  • Cruise lines must follow all CDC CSO requirements including mask wearing and social distancing.

  • Cruise ship’s color-coding status must be Green or Orange at the time of the test sailings.

  • Sailings that operate outside of US Ports and US waters do not count towards this requirement.

  • The test sailings must simulate a ‘normal’ voyage and must test all Covid procedures.



Mitigation for ship crew

One update is in regards to testing of daily visitors and daily contractors that board cruise ships. More updates include “parameters and testing options. Updated surveillance reporting requirement to daily, revised the color-coding system, and COVID-19-like illness definition.”




Food & beverage

CDC now mandates no self serve food and beverage options which includes buffet.

Social distancing is now required in all ship venues and deck chairs need to be 6 feet apart except for those who are traveling together. Cruise lines are encouraged to offer grab and go meals which can be consumed in-room or on open decks.



Shore excursions

CDC prohibits self exploring in port and booking shore excursions on your own (not through the cruise lines). Cruise lines must ensure approved excursion providers require social distancing, masks and other safety protocols. In addition it would limit shore excursions to ports that are considered a level 1 risk to Covid. In addition tours can only be conducted with guests from the same ship. Cruise Line’s private islands must only allow one ship at a time.


The CDC will not currently require Covid-19 vaccine for crew and passengers, but it does recommend it. Cruises can be ended if 1.5% of passengers are Covid positive or 1.0% of COVID-19 cases are detected in the crew.


This is a good step in the right direction; however in my opinion I feel cruising from the US will start at best in August. When do you think revenue sailings will begin from the United States?





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