CDC: Cruising could return in mid-July with 95% of passengers fully vaccinated

Summer vacation is right around the corner and the cruise industry is getting ready to welcome passengers as early as July.

According to a letter from the Center for Disease Control released on Wednesday, clarifications were also discussed, concerning timelines to resuming passenger operations and vaccine requirements. Cruises can resume if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated. Social distancing and COVID-19 testing upon embarkation will be part of the new normal onboard.

“We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity ... the goal is to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities,” Aimee Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC’s COVID-19 response within its Global Mitigation Task Force for COVID-19, said in a letter to the cruise industry Wednesday.

[RELATED: See the CDC’s orders regarding cruise ships]

This letter was prompted by the recent lawsuit brought by Florida against the CDC to override the restrictions on cruising.

Many itineraries will be shorter, with five days or less being offered for voyages out of the U.S.

“The cruise lines, what they don’t want is they don’t want to take any unnecessary risks,” industry expert Stewart Chiron said. “Which is why we’re seeing a lot of the cruise lines are now requiring passengers to be vaccinated.”

In a White House briefing earlier this month, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said he is hopeful that cruise lines will be able to resume sailings in U.S. waters by the middle of this summer.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who said Wednesday that she thought sailings would be able to resume this summer, released a statement in support of the CDC’s latest outlook for cruising.

“My focus has been to empower our economic engines in Miami-Dade and give our residents a safe path to return to work. I’m grateful to the CDC for engaging in ongoing dialogue with the Port and our local cruise partners about a path to safe-reopening of the cruise industry, and excited by this latest update resulting from those conversations and recommendations,” the statement read. “The new guidelines move us closer to re-opening, reflecting the great progress being made on vaccination in Miami-Dade and across the country. We will continue to work closely with the CDC and cruise partners as we advocate for a safe restart of cruising this summer — to get ships back in the water and get passenger cruising, a cornerstone of our regional economy, moving again.”

Sen. Rick Scott said he is glad cruises are closer but slammed the CDC for not allowing them to return to the water sooner.

“The CDC has treated America’s cruise industry terribly over the past year and I will continue my fight to hold the CDC accountable and make sure we reach a quick and equitable solution that keeps people safe and protects jobs in Florida and across the nation,” Scott said in a statement.

Beyond the politics, it’s clear that many people are looking forward to getting back on a ship.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of pent-up demand, for people wanting to go on a cruise,” Chiron said. “Bookings for 2022 and 2023 are at record levels.”

CDC Document: Technical Instructions for a Cruise Ship Operator’s Agreement with Port and Local Health Authorities under CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order

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