(Updated 1:50 p.m. EDT) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued an extension of its No Sail Order that was due to expire July 24, extending it until September 30, 2020, for all cruises out of U.S. ports of call.
The order, which first was issued March 14 and extended for 100 days in April, comes on the heels of Cruise Lines International Association, the industry's largest trade organization, announcing that its member lines would voluntarily suspend all cruise operations until September 15.
The CDC notes its order is in effect until either: the expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services' declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency; the CDC director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations; or until September 30.
"CDC supports the decision by the Cruise Line sic International Association (CLIA) and its members to voluntarily extend the suspension of operation for passenger cruise ship travel," notes
. "However, because not all cruise ship operators subject to the No Sail Order are members of CLIA or have made similar commitments, CDC is extending its No Sail Order to ensure that passenger operations do not resume prematurely."
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As with the CDC's previous guidance, the No Sail Order affects vessels with the capacity to carry more than 250 people on voyages with overnight stays sailing from, to or within U.S jurisdictional waters are affected.
Most of the lines that would be affected by this ruling -- Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean brands -- have already voluntarily suspended sailing into September and beyond.
Although many lines have stated their intention to restart in mid-September, the encouraging news here is that, unlike the initial guidance issued in March and then April, the CDC and CLIA seem to be on the same page when it comes to when cruises could potentially resume within U.S. territorial waters.
Lines that are not affected would include small-ship operators sailing within the United States, such as American Cruise Lines and UnCruise Adventures.
In a statement about the extension from the CDC, CLIA lauded the CDC's commitment to working with the cruise line industry toward a healthy and safe restart.
"As reflected in today's announcement, CLIA and its member lines remain aligned with the CDC in our commitment to public health and safety," the statement read. "We are also pleased that the CDC has announced its intention to issue a request for information about the industry's resumption of passenger operations. As we continue to work towards the development of enhanced protocols to support the safe resumption of cruise operations around the world, we look forward to timely and productive dialogue with the CDC to determine measures that will be appropriate for ocean-going cruise operations to resume in the United States when the time is right."
What About International Cruises?
International cruise operations are not affected at this time, as they fall outside of the jurisdiction of the CDC. Only voyages from, to or within the United States are affected.
New verbiage in the CDC's extension, though, makes it clear that ships operating outside of the United States cannot enter any U.S. waterway or call on any U.S. port while the CDC's No Sail Order is in effect.
There are also concerns over whether ships operating outside of U.S. jurisdiction will be held to account by the CDC when they try to re-enter U.S. waters. During a webinar for travel trade media on August 20, CLIA suggested that the CDC could effectively ban ships from re-entering the United States for not following the CDC's directives even when outside U.S. jurisdiction. This also applies to vessels sailing to foreign countries to repatriate crewmembers, as has been the case for much of the industry over the past four months.
"CDC requirements are directly applicable to ships within U.S. jurisdiction, but not enforceable on ships outside U.S. jurisdiction," Brian Salerno, SVP maritime policy with CLIA, told Cruise Critic in an email. "However, if a ship that has been operating outside U.S. jurisdiction seeks to enter, the CDC could deny Free Pratique (entry) if the CDC’s requirements have not been followed."
"So far, we have not had a case where this has been an issue."
What Progress Has Been Made For Cruise to Resume?
The CDC states it has spent roughly 38,000 hours on the cruise ship COVID-19 response since March 14. It also says other government agencies, including Health and Human Services, additionally have invested thousands of hours.
"CDC continues to have regular conversations by phone and email with cruise lines, often daily," according to the CDC.
The CDC, though, places much of the onus for the continued suspension of service squarely on the cruise lines, citing myriad infractions in social distancing protocols during the time since sailings have been suspended.
The CDC was also critical of cruise lines that attempted to transfer crewmembers outside of U.S. waters while noting that only one cruise line -- Bahamas Paradise -- had met the criteria set forth on its color-coded crew repatriation chart.
Numerous lines, like Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, utilized their private islands in the Bahamas to sail crewmembers to their home countries when the CDC prevented repatriation by air.
"Alleged instances of non-compliance included not adhering to social distancing protocols; unauthorized crew transfers while outside of U.S. waters; not submitting weekly surveillance data (through the EDC form); not relocating all crew to single-occupancy cabins with private bathrooms; not cancelling all social gatherings; and not closing all crew bars, gyms, or other group settings," the CDC report stated.
Many of these recommendations would be difficult to adhere to on ships, particularly when crew morale is at a low ebb and repatriation efforts have been ongoing.
"Lack of Consensus Among Cruise Ship Operators and Need for Additional Industry-led Efforts Regarding Safely Resuming Passenger Operations" is the headline of one subhead of the CDC document issued July 16.
The CDC notes that for the period from March 1 to July 10, a total of 2,973 COVID-19 cases or "COVID-like illnesses" were found on cruise ships, in addition to 34 deaths.
COVID-19 cases in the United States
at a rate of 63,000 new infections per day.
Cruise Critic will update this story with more information as it emerges. A list of currently expected resumption of service dates can be found here.