People come out to watch the new Carnival Cruise Line ship Mardi Gras on its maiden voyage, a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean from Port Canaveral, Florida on July 31, 2021.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended until January the restrictions on the cruise industry due to expire next week, citing concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant and groundbreaking cases among vaccinated travelers.
Since October 2020, the CDC has allowed cruise ships to operate under conditions that, among other safety precautions, require masks on board and vaccinations or tests by passengers and crew members. Although the agency planned to cancel the order by November 1, the extension on Monday will become a voluntary action for cruise lines on January 15.
“The passenger resumption procedures have successfully averted an overload of medical facilities on board and a strain on hospital resources on land,” the CDC said in a statement Monday. “However, the CDC has decided to temporarily extend the contract due to the continued spread of the Delta variant.”
All foreign-flagged cruise ships carrying at least 250 passengers must adhere to the order and, upon request, grant the CDC access to their ships and passenger health records to ensure compliance. Cruise ships that do not receive a Covid-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate from the CDC will be banned from operating in US waters.
To obtain a certificate, cruise lines must train their crews in Covid prevention tactics and implement their own testing and quarantine standards. They must also “provide hospital care” by equipping their ships with ventilators, masks and other protective equipment for Covid patients “without having to rely directly on a hospital stay on land,” the regulation says.
The CDC’s conditional cruise order also requires cruise lines to test passengers and staff for Covid before embarkation, to prohibit suspected Covid patients from boarding and to isolate those infected from other travelers and employees. Cruise lines must also allow adequate social distancing while eating and entertaining, and comply with all federal sanitary standards for masking and sanitation.