Since mid-March, the CDC has had cruises on hold with a no sail order due to the Covid pandemic. On October 30, 2020, the CDC decided to lift the cruise ban when the current no sail order expires. It also announced a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (opens a PDF document in a new tab/window). Meaning the current no sail order will expire October 31st, which will allow cruise lines to implement safety protocols, sea trials, and eventually welcome guests back on board.
While this is great news for the industry and guests who are anxious to take a cruise, it is important to note that even though the decision was made to lift the cruise ban, the CDC still advises guests to avoid cruises. This announcement does not imply or guarantee cruises will resume with guests on November 1 and potentially not December 1 when the current CLIA and cruise line voluntary suspension date (November 30, 2020) expires.
What does lifting the cruise ban and the new order mean for cruising? The order requires cruise ships with a capacity of more than 250 people to implement health and safety protocols. The order itself (link above) goes to great length to explain how complicated a return to cruising is due to people from multiple states boarding, stopping in different destinations, and all the different “jurisdictions” that cover them. The stated goal is for cruising to resume, but safely, which is not possible at the moment (according to the order).
To resume cruising, the cruise lines must apply for a COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate. To qualify, each ship must meet standards for health and safety, have crew safely on board while conducting simulated voyages, have simulated voyages with volunteer guests (who must agree to be tested, tracked, and take part in various “cruise activities”), and be able to certify that everyone was safe and healthy before, during, and after the simulated voyage.
Personally, I call this a positive step toward cruising, but don’t think cruises will be restarting at the end of the voluntary suspension (November 30, 2020). Lifting the ban on cruises lets the cruise lines get their crew back to the ships, train them, make the changes necessary to the ships and protocols, and begin the process of getting the conditional sailing certificate. When cruising with guests does resume, it will be a slow return beginning with short cruises to destinations like the private islands owned by the cruise lines.