The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that its current Conditional Sail Order (CSO) will not be renewed after its expiry on Saturday (January 15).
Dr Rochelle Walensky, CDC director, said that the plan was to let the CSO lapse when asked about the status of the current CSO in front of the Senate.
The US health body has now said the current CSO will be replaced by a new voluntary Covid-19 cruise programme available to US and foreign-flagged cruise ships operating in US waters,
Cruise lines will receive guidance and recommendations to keep operating in a way that fosters a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and impacted communities, the CDC told USA Today.
The CSO was introduced in October 2020, bringing in health and safety protocols to manage Covid-19, ahead of the resumption of cruising in the US.
Initially, it started as a ban on any cruises operating in US waters but transitioned to the current CSO, which reopened cruising in phases.
Clia said that the switch to a voluntary programme from January 15 recognised the industry’s “unwavering commitment to providing some of the highest levels of Covid-19 mitigation found in any industry”.
“Cruise is the only segment of travel and tourism that requires, prior to embarkation for both passengers and crew, exceedingly high levels of vaccination and 100% testing of every individual,” it said.
“Furthermore, cruise is the only sector that continuously monitors, collects, and reports case information directly to the CDC.”
Alison Earnshaw, managing director of Cruise118 parent World Travel Holdings, called the CDC’s decision “another step in the right direction”.
“The impact of this will be significant in the US more than the UK, but it is another step in the right direction,” she said. “Nonetheless, it’s a positive message to the consumer, regardless of country.”
The CDC increased the risk status for cruising from level three to level four last month amid a surge in Omicron case numbers globally.