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CLIA Calls Out New CDC Cruise Ship Guidelines

Your favorite oversight entity has a new plan for cruising, but some in the industry are already raising concerns about how well it will work.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships which not only seems to ignore the latest societal trends for public health, but also overly complicates protocols and response plans in the event of positive cases on board, according to CLIA. 

You can read CLIA’s full statement regarding the new voluntary program below: 

“Regrettably, upon initial review, the latest CDC guidance appears out of step with the actual public health conditions on cruise ships and unnecessary in light of societal trends away from more restrictive measures. We are confounded by the CDC’s imposition of even more complex and unwarranted measures which ignore empirical evidence that the industry’s protocols have provided a greater level of COVID mitigation than most any other setting. The CDC’s guidance for multitiered cruises is counterproductive to consumers, creating market confusion between the various tiers, and potentially unworkable in practice,” the statement said.

COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships 

The new program is aimed at replacing the Conditional Sailing Order which expired earlier this year, but the critics are adamant it does more harm than good. Cruise lines that do opt into the program have until February 18th to decide and will be required to follow “all recommendations and guidance as a condition of their participation in the program (i.e., they will not be able to pick and choose which recommendations they follow).”

Cruise lines that do not notify the CDC by the 18th will be considered to have opted out of the program. Cruise lines that decide to opt out will have any cruise ships operating in U.S. waters listed as “gray” ships on CDC’s Cruise Ship Color Status webpage. This designation means that CDC has neither reviewed nor confirmed the cruise ship operator’s health and safety protocols.

So far, only Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and their sub-brands have committed to the program. 

As part of the program, the CDC also has new cruise ship vaccination status classifications: 

  • Not Highly Vaccinated: ships with less than 95% passengers and 95% crew who are fully vaccinated.
  • Highly Vaccinated: ships with at least 95% passengers and 95% crew who are fully vaccinated, but with less than 95% of passengers and 95% of crew who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Vaccination Standard of Excellence: ships with at least 95% passengers and 95% crew who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.

Other protocols include port agreements with local governments, onboard surveillance of passengers and crew with COVID-19 and COVID-19-like illness, training all crew on COVID-19 prevention, mitigation, and response activities, protocols for onboard isolation and quarantine, including how to increase capacity in case of an outbreak, COVID-19 testing that align with CDC technical instructions, and much more. 

If you want to read the full list of requirements under the CDC’s new program, you can read the whole thing here

We’ll keep you updated as more news and analysis of the CDC’s program continues to emerge. 

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Evan Gove is the SEO & Content Manager for Porthole Cruise and Travel's digital department. He covers cruise industry news and writes ship reviews for porthole.com. You can also catch him as a guest on the YouTube series Cruise Control with Bill Panoff. Follow his tweets and posts about the cruise industry from Porthole Cruise and Travel's social media accounts.