While cruising within the United States remains on-pause due to the ongoing global health pandemic, cruisers can track the progress of their favorite cruise ships with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as lines seek approval to restart operations.
The CDC has mandated that any ship expecting to operate within U.S. waters between now and November 1, 2021, when the organization's Framework for Conditional Sailing that was imposed in fall 2020 expires, must first complete a series of steps in order to be permitted to engage in crew transfers.
Those steps include the cruise lines submit a detailed COVID-19 response plan for that ship, with a signed affidavit acknowledging the completeness of said plan. The ship must also have no cases of COVID-19 or any COVID-like illness onboard the vessel for the past 28 days; and make sure that no crew members have come from any vessel with a COVID or COVID-like illness onboard. Finally the cruise line must quarantine any embarking crewmembers for 14 days prior to starting duties; and submit a signed attestation for commercial travel.
Ship Progress Is Tracked On A Color-Coded Chart
The CDC tracks the progress of large cruise ships in U.S. waters with a handy color-coded chart.
You can view the chart, and see the status of your favorite ship,
A Green status means the ship has met all of the conditions outlined above and can commence crew transfers. Crew facilities like bars and gyms can re-open, and requirements for the crew to wear face masks can be removed, according to the CDC.
A Red status means the ship has not met one or more conditions. Crew travel is banned, and onboard facilities for crewmembers including in-person meetings, events and social gatherings must stop. Bars, gyms, and other group venues must close, and face masks must be worn.
Yellow status is an intermediary provision that seems to be used less frequently. As of this writing, not a single vessel is in this standby status.
What the CDC's Chart Tells Us About A Ship's Status
While a Green status is not the go-ahead restart full cruise operations, cruise lines must achieve and hold this status if they want to be allowed to get to the next phase in resuming cruises: test voyages.
Very little is known about these test sailings. The CDC has stated it still has yet to outline specific requirements for test sailings to cruise lines, and although Royal Caribbean began taking volunteers for test cruises back in November 2020, little movement has been made on this front to-date.
The CDC currently has implemented far stricter guidelines and reporting requirements for cruise lines than for any other form of travel, including airlines, hotels, and land-based resorts. To date, the cruise industry is the only segment of the travel industry that has not been able to restart within the U.S.
Still, there is hope to be gleaned from the CDC's chart, which is updated every week. It currently shows 56 ships across five major cruise lines as having achieved green status, while just eight vessels are still at red status.
Don't see your favorite ship on the chart? It may not be in U.S. waters at this time. Only ships carrying over 250 passengers that are planning to sail to, or from, the United States are required to complete this provisional step in order to eventually be granted permission to sail.
For more information on what the CDC is requiring of cruise lines in order to restart as part of its Conditional Framework for resuming operations, have a look at Cruise Critic's overview in our "Unpacking the CDC's Newest Order" primer.