People come out to watch the new Carnival Cruise Line Mardi Gras embark on its maiden voyage, a seven-day Caribbean cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida on July 31, 2021.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended January cruise ship restrictions that will expire next week, citing concerns about the highly contagious delta variant and new cases of the disease among vaccinated travelers.
The CDC has allowed cruise ships to operate in conditions from October 2020 requiring masks on board and vaccinations or testing of passengers and crew, among other security measures. Although the agency planned to cancel the order by November 1, the Monday extension would be a voluntary measure for cruise operators on January 15.
“The procedures put in place to resume passenger traffic have successfully prevented congestion on board medical facilities and overwhelmed resources at coastal hospitals,” the CDC said in a statement Monday. “However, the CDC has decided to temporarily extend the order due to the continued proliferation of the Delta variant.”
All foreign flag cruise ships carrying at least 250 passengers must comply with the order and provide CDC access to their ships and passengers’ medical records upon request to enforce compliance. Cruise lines that are unable to obtain a conditional sailing certificate for Covid-19 from the CDC will be banned from operating in US waters.
To obtain certification, cruise operators must train their crews in Covid prevention tactics and implement their own testing and quarantine standards. According to the order, they must also “provide a hospital level of service” by equipping their ships with ventilators, masks and other protective equipment for patients with Covid, “without the immediate need to rely on coastal hospitalization.”
The CDC’s conditional cruise order also requires cruise operators to screen passengers and staff for Covid before boarding, prohibit any patients with suspected Covid from boarding, and isolate those infected from other travelers and staff. Cruise ships must also maintain adequate social distancing during dining and entertainment and meet all federal camouflage and sanitation hygiene standards.