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CDC Adds New Cruising Guidelines for Return

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has added two more guidelines for cruise ship companies to follow before cruising in the U.S. can return.

The government agency has implemented new rules and protocols in two areas – screenings of new passengers as well as screenings of passengers taking consecutive, or back-to-back, cruises.

According to Matt Hochberg, writing for the Royal Caribbean blog, the new requirements and recommendations apply to test cruises – which all lines must undergo before fully returning to sailing – as well as revenue cruises while the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) is in effect.

Previously this week the CDC had updated its guidance on face masks and shore excursions.

The blog noted that the CDC now requires cruise lines to look for symptoms or signs of COVID-19 and screen for a known close contact exposure to a person with COVID-19 within the past 14 days.

Passengers with signs or symptoms of COVID-19 could still go on the cruise if they are fully vaccinated but denied boarding if not fully vaccinated and without documentation of recovery.

Passengers who have a known close contact exposure in the past 14 days will also be denied boarding if not fully vaccinated.

Many cruisers love the idea of disembarking from a trip only to get right back on hours later for a back-to-back sailing. For them, the CDC now says that fully vaccinated passengers do not need to be tested on embarkation day, disembarkation day, or even going on a back-to-back sailing. While embarkation testing is not required, international travelers arriving in the U.S. are recommended to be tested 3-5 days after arrival, including those who are fully vaccinated.

For the unvaccinated, they will need to take a Viral (NAAT or antigen) test for embarkation day, disembarkation day, and if doing a back-to-back.

How this will be perceived remains to be seen. The cruise industry has been at odds with the CDC for months now over what it feels is unfair rules that have prohibited cruising from returning in the U.S., to the point where Congress has become involved.

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