Exclusive: No cruising in US waters until 2021 as industry voluntarily extends suspension
Cruise Lines International Association, which represents 95% of the cruise industry, introduced mandatory requirements to be able to set sail again. USA TODAY
The cruise industry has suspended cruises until 2021 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "no-sail" order expired Saturday and was replaced by a ""Level 3 Travel Health Notice" recommending people "defer travel" on cruise ships worldwide. The Oct. 8 statement applies to both ocean and river cruising, which have already restarted in Asia and Europe.
Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. all announced their own voluntary sailing suspensions through the end of the year ahead of CLIA's announcement Tuesday.
Last week, Virgin Voyages delayed its debut season until January, too.
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Sailing suspension continues, but the industry is preparing
The cruise industry has been preparing to sail again for some time, and by pushing sailing off until the new year, they will have more time to prepare and align industry protocols with standards in the CDC's new order, which includes test sailings, among other requirements to be completed, before passenger cruises can resume.
In September, the industry announced mandatory health and safety changes in preparation for a return to cruising. CLIA and its member cruise lines adopted more extensive mandatory health protocols for vessels that can carry 250 or more passengers, which include crew and passenger testing, mask-wearing, enhanced cruise ship ventilation, response procedures and shore excursion protocols.
CLIA worked with Royal Caribbean and Norwegian's "Healthy Sail Panel," other cruise lines and health experts and examined sailings with new protocols in place in Europe.
In October, CLIA made the call that all its member ships would adopt all 74 of the panel's recommendations to healthily resume cruising in U.S. waters.
The industry also announced universal testing on ships with the capability of carrying 250 or more people worldwide.
Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, believes that the industry has found a way to move forward.
"We do believe it is possible to make it that you are safer on a cruise ship than you are on 'Main Street'," he said on the company's earnings call on Oct. 29.
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