America to launch mock cruises to test pandemic procedures

The US cruise market has had positive signs that it could start to reopen, but lines must first operate mock cruises to prove their coronavirus procedures are up to code.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has replaced its cruise ban with a “framework for conditional sailing order” outlining how cruising can resume safely.

It’s not clear when exactly cruises will be up and running again, but the order recommends “a phased approach” with a “framework of actionable items for the cruise line industry to follow”.

The CDC has advised that cruise lines test their protocols with “mock” cruises where “volunteers play the role of passengers to test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate Covid-19 risk”.

Companies must demonstrate that they have robust and rigorous health and safety procedures in place, including being able to adhere to social distancing requirements and having adequate testing and quarantine capacity onboard.

CDC director Robert R. Redfield said: “This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing. It will mitigate the risk of Covid-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live.

“The CDC and the cruise industry have a shared goal to protect crew, passengers, and communities and will continue to work together to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise ships begin sailing with passengers.”

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) president and CEO Kelly Craighead told Cruise Trade News: “The cruise industry and the CDC have a long track record of working together in the interest of public health and we look forward to continuing to build upon this legacy to support the resumption of cruising from US ports.

“With enhanced measures in place, and with the continued guidance of leading experts in health and science as well as the CDC, we are confident that a resumption of cruising in the US is possible to support the economic recovery while maintaining a focus on effective and science-based measures to protect public health.”

The US ban on sailings followed mass Covid-19 outbreaks on cruise ships back in March, when the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess both saw multiple infections onboard.

More recently, a German river cruise became the centre of a superspreading event after around two thirds of the passengers on board tested positive for Covid-19.

The mostly Swiss holidaymakers were on a folk music-themed cruise from Passau to Frankfurt between 10 and 17 October, aboard the Scylla AG operated MS Swiss Crystal.

Following the cruise, around 60 of the 92 passengers on board tested positive for Covid-19, and all are now either in isolation or quarantine.

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