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Cruises Resuming

Norwegian Cruise Line pushes CDC for an answer to their proposal to restart cruising


More than a week after Norwegian Cruise Line submitted its plan to safely restart cruises from the United States to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there has been no answer.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) called out the CDC on Thursday for not responding yet to their proposal.

On April 5, NCLH submitted a proposal that included 100% vaccination of guests and crew onboard, as well as strict health and safety protocols for all sailing through October 31, 2021.

Today, the company sent a "reminder letter" to the CDC requesting a response.

NCLH President and CEO Frank Del Rio wrote to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky that he is concerned about the lack of progress, calling the experience "frustrating".

"As you know, our industry had a meeting with your office on Monday, and while we appreciate the dialogue, our proposal was not addressed."

"Going forward, we understand the industry may be having regular meetings with your office but remain concerned that such meetings produce the nonexistent results they have had since last year."

NCLH believes by requiring vaccines of every single person onboard its ships initially, in addition to comprehensive protocols including universal COVID-19 testing, their plan exceeds the intent of the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).

Read moreEverything we know about if Royal Caribbean will require a vaccine

Under NCLH's proposal, sailings would be able to commence from U.S. ports beginning July 4.

“Over the past year we have worked tirelessly and invested heavily to create a path to resume cruise operations including enlisting the guidance of the nation’s top scientific and public health experts. We are confident that with our science-backed SailSAFE program, we will offer a uniquely safe and healthy vacation experience which protects our guests, crew and communities we visit,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

“We strongly believe our proposal submitted to the CDC 10 days ago, which includes mandatory vaccinations for all guests and crew, offers a safe and immediate solution to resume cruising and eliminates the need for the obsolete CSO, which in its current form is impossible to operationalize and more importantly ignores the advancement of vaccines. Our proposal goes well above and beyond the intent of the CSO and would greatly accelerate the path to resume cruising while freeing up the CDC’s valuable time and resources, allowing it to focus on its many other competing public health priorities. I continue to await further discussion with the CDC and I am respectfully requesting a prompt response to my written proposal to recommence cruising in July allowing us to join America’s national reopening.” 

Norwegian's Plan

To get things going, NCLH has proposed the most stringent policies yet by any North American cruise line.

The plan has five major components:

  1. NCLH will require that all guests embarking from a U.S. port and/or disembarking to a U.S. port provide proof of having been fully vaccinated with an FDA-, EMA-, or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine no less than two weeks prior to their departure date;

  2. All crew on NCLH vessels will be fully vaccinated with an FDA-, EMA- or WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks prior to commencement of their duties onboard their assigned vessel;

  3. NCLH will also incorporate and operationalize the protocols developed by the Healthy Sail Panel (“HSP”), led by former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt and former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration Dr. Scott Gottlieb. These protocols, include universal testing of guests and crew, combined with required vaccines for all guests and crew, thereby creating a safe, “bubble-like” environment; and

  4. On or about July 4, 2021, NCLH vessels will begin cruise operations at an initial reduced capacity of 60%, gradually ramping up our fleet departing from U.S. ports and increasing capacity by 20% every 30 days.

  5. These stringent requirements will remain in place until public health conditions allow for the implementation of more lenient protocols.

Without a doubt, NCLH's plan is centered around the Covid-19 vaccine, "vaccinations are the primary vehicle for Americans to get back to their everyday lives while containing the spread of the virus. As such, our robust science-backed plan combines mandatory vaccinations for all guests and crew with multiple additional layers of preventative protocols, including universal COVID-19 testing."

Cruise industry met with CDC this week about cruises restarting this summer


Talking is the first step in making progress.

Cruise industry executives met with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other Government agencies this week in a virtual meeting to discuss restart plans.

A meeting was held between the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) and the CDC, in which the industry voiced their concerns with the Framework for Conditional Sailing (CSO.)

Pressure has been mounting across different platforms to give cruise lines a chance to resume sailing.  Lawsuits, new legislation, and a vigorous write-in campaign have been some of the new initiatives thrown at the CDC after months of inaction by the agency.

According to CLIA, CLIA and member line representatives from companies operating in the U.S. shared their concerns about the CDC's so-called plan for phased restart, as well as a call for more changes sooner.

The meeting took place earlier in the week, and CLIA issued this summary of what happened.

"We appreciated the opportunity to meet with members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and White House staff on Monday, April 12, 2021."

"We know from the successful restart of cruising in many countries outside the United States that collaborative communication between industry, government, and health authorities is critical. Therefore, we welcomed the invitation to discuss the current Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO.)"

"We pointed to the hundreds of thousands of passenger sailings following enhanced health and safety measures that have successfully mitigated the risk of introducing and transmitting COVID-19 on cruise ships at levels much lower than found on land. "

"Furthermore, cruise line CEOs shared their views on why the CSO – which was issued nearly six months ago - lags behind international efforts, does not reflect an understanding of how the industry operates, is predicated on scenarios that are increasingly unlikely and has not kept pace with positive medical advancements."

The problem with the CSO

In recent weeks, the cruise industry has criticized the CSO as being overly complicated, outdated, and unnecessary.

Instead, cruise lines have proposed dropping the CSO completely and allowing cruise ships to sail under the submitted extensive new health protocols.

CLIA appears to be encouraged by what they heard, but is still keeping up the pressure on the Administration and the CDC to lift the CSO.

Read more: How to easily tell your Congressperson you want the CDC to let cruise ships sail

Mounting pressure

This week's meeting follows blow back on the CDC after they released updated technical guidance for its Framework for Conditional Sailing on April 1.

The new guidance was largely seen as lacking and impractical. CLIA called it, "unduly burdensome, largely unworkable".

Moreover, it seems the CDC is still adhering to a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to Covid that so many others facets of life have adopted.

Since then, a new bill was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Rick Scott (R-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) that aims to revoke the CSO and take control away from the CDC.

Florida's Governor has sued the federal government, and Alaska's governor is considering doing the same.

Senators introduce new bill for cruise ships to sail without CDC approval


A new piece of legislation has been introduced by Senators from Florida and Alaska that would allow cruise ships to start sailing without the CDC's interference.

The ‘‘Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements Act’’ or the ‘‘CRUISE Act’’ was introduced on Tuesday as a new bill by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar is leading this legislation in the House of Representatives.

The purpose of the bill is to end the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC)'s Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO) by July 4, 2021 so that cruise lines can restart sailings from the United States.

The CSO is what is preventing cruise ships from sailing again, and to date, has been incomplete in terms of providing all the necessary steps for cruise lines to accomplish in order to receive approval to sail.

If the Cruise Act were passed, it would override the CSO.

"Not later than July 4, 2021, the Secretary shall revoke the order entitled ‘‘Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase COVID–19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew’’, issued by the Director on November 4, 2020 (85 Fed. Reg. 70153), under the authority of sections 361 and 365 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 264; 268), and any other order or regulation that prohibits the operation of all cruise ships in United States waters, requires such ships to obtain approval from the Director prior to operating, or otherwise acts as a de facto prohibition for cruise ship operations in the United States."

The bill also proposed the creation of an interagency working group, which would issue recommendations for how to mitigate the risks of COVID–19 introduction, transmission, and spread among passengers and crew on board cruise ships and ashore to communities.

In a statement, Senator Scott talked about why this bill was introduced, " While many sectors of the economy have been safely operating for months under CDC guidelines, Floridians, and those across the nation that rely on the cruise industry for work, continue to wait for updated guidance from the CDC."

"The CDC's refusal to properly address this shutdown is wrong and it’s time to get the cruise lines open safely. Our bill, the CRUISE Act, says we’re not waiting on the CDC any longer. Cruises can and should resume, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring back our cruise industry safely."

Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar pointed out the good this bill will do, "This legislation will fix the CDC’s arbitrary guidelines and give clarity and fairness to the industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout Miami’s entire tourism economy."

What the Conditional Sail Order requires

The Framework for Conditional Sailing order is a phased approach to cruises restarting that is administered by the CDC.

Before cruises can fully resume, the CDC has outlined a series of steps that need to occur before cruise ships can begin taking passengers onboard.

The framework for conditional sailing is meant to potentially allow cruise ships to sail again while not putting the public health at risk.

First, ships must implement testing and other protocols for the safe return of crew. Non-revenue test sailings will follow, with vessels then required to request and receive approval to resume sailing with passengers onboard.

On its website, the CDC says the instructions are meant to ensure health and safety protections for the crew prior to resuming passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Past attempts to get ships sailing

This is the third bill introduced to Congress in an effort to get cruises going again.

On September 16, 2020, Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio introduced the "Set Sail Safely Act", which died after not receiving a vote.

On March 6, 2021, Two U.S. Senators, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan introduced a bill to Congress to allow foreign flagged cruise ships to sail to Alaska without having to stop in Canada.

This bill is still waiting to be considered by committee before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole.

Alaska Governor threatens to sue US over cruise ship ban


Another state may sue the federal government in order to get cruise ships sailing again.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) said a lawsuit is a "real possibility" when asked if he would look to legal action to get ships sailing again.

In a television interview with Fox News, Gov. Dunleavy explained the plight of Alaskans who are facing a second year in a row without any cruise ship tourism, and the associated spending they bring in.

When asked if Alaska would join Florida in suing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Gov. Dunleavy did not rule out such an action as well if things do not change, "If we don't get, I think, a positive dialogue here this week, that's a real possibility because the again, the decision will be crushing to Alaska."

Florida Governor Ron Desantis (R-FL) announced last week his state has filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC, demanding cruise ships be reopened immediately.

Florida's lawsuit is an attempt to get the CDC to drop the Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO), which is not allowing cruise ships to sail despite airlines, theme parks, casinos, and rail to operate without any hindrance.

Gov. Dunleav says over the course of the lost 2020 and 2021 cruise seasons, Alaska will have a $3.3 billion loss in Alaska, "that's in a state with about a fifty six billion dollar GDP, so it's going to be significant."

"We're going to lose millions of dollars in local revenue for our communities, especially along the coast. Unemployment rates will remain stubbornly high when we can actually lower them through this process."

Gov. Dunleavy points to the fact his state is among the best in the nation in terms of vaccination rates and low case counts, and wants the federal government to let the states work with the cruise lines.

"If you look at Alaska's numbers, if you look at our data, we're doing this better than anybody. We know what we're doing. All we want is the opportunity to work with the industry."

Alaska's legislators have been vocal in their support for cruises to resume operations.

A Congressional delegation from Alaska sent a letter with colleagues to the White House COVID Response Coordinator, urging the Biden administration to be more transparent and timely in their efforts to develop guidance for the resumption of operations for the cruise ship industry.

In February, Alaska's representatives asked Canada to re-evaluate their ban on cruise ships. Then in March, they introduced a new bill to allow cruise ships to sail without having to stop in Canada.

Royal Caribbean has not officially cancelled its Alaska cruises for 2021 beyond June, but the entire season is in limbo while the cruise industry tries to find a solution to salvage at least part of it.

Here is how to easily tell your Congressperson you want the CDC to let cruise ships sail


Royal Caribbean wants your support in telling the U.S. government it is time to open cruises back up.

The cruise industry as a whole is united in their effort to get approval for cruise ships to sail again, and a major part of their plan is rallying public support.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) holds the reigns on cruises being able to sail, Federal government influence still plays a major role.

To that end, Royal Caribbean is asking all past and future cruisers to contact their U.S. policymakers to get the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) removed to resume along with other travel and hospitality industries. 

Getting the word out about contacting policymakers is so important to Royal Caribbean, they have taken to social media and directly contacting cruisers via email to spread the word.

On the Royal Caribbean Group website, the call to action for all Americans to contact their senators and representatives is spelled out, "We ask you to please join the Group and cruise-related industries in this crucial campaign to move our industry forward."

"In concert with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Royal Caribbean Group is petitioning the CDC and U.S. policymakers to remove the Conditional Sail Order and allow cruising to resume along with other travel and hospitality industries. CLIA has launched a “Ready Set Sail” campaign to raise our collective voice."

Why should cruise ships be able to sail?

Cruise lines need your support to get going again, and it is based on a few important factors.

First and foremost, the cruise industry has adopted sweeping new health protocols that are unparalleled in the travel industry. Lead by an independent group of scientists and public health experts, the Healthy Sail Panel has provided the industry with clear ways to offer cruises in a responsible and low risk manner during the current health crisis.

Cruise ships will employ testing for every passenger and crew member, new ways of circulating air and filtration, enhanced cleanliness onboard, and contact tracing.

No other form of leisure travel employs as sophisticated or extensive protocols.

Proving this science works, more than 400,000 healthy guests have sailed on cruise ships outside the U.S., all made possible by protocols developed over months of collaboration with top experts including the Healthy Sail Panel.

In addition, every other sector of travel has been able to restart operations.

While cruise ships remain completely shut down, other forms of travel such as airplanes, casinos, theme parks, and hotels are operating without hindrance by the federal government.  

If the argument is made cruise ships should not be able to sail because it is unsafe during the health crisis, then the same logic should be applied to other forms of leisure travel.  Since that is not happening, this is an unfair and irresponsible approach to single out one sector of travel while ignoring the rest.

Lastly, cruise ships should be able to sail again because the CDC has failed to live up to its end of its agreement with the industry.

Cruise lines and the CDC agreed to work on a new phased approach to allowing cruises to sail again under the Conditional Sail Order, but the CDC has provided little tangible updates or progress since the agreement went into effect in October 2020.

How you can help

In order to make your voice heard, Royal Caribbean has directed its supporters to take one of these easy actions.

The best thing you can do is contact your congressperson by visiting the CLIA Action Center to use their form to easily contact your senators and representatives.

Second, you can share your support on social media with videos and call-to-action materials.

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U.S. Transportation Secretary: Cruises could restart by midsummer


The highest ranking federal official has provided a ray of hope for cruises restarting sometime soon.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke on the subject of cruises restarting while at a White House briefing on Friday.

According to Mr. Buttigieg, cruise ships could be "sailing by midsummer," provided they can meet safety guidelines in time.

Questions on a variety of transportation questions were taken by Mr. Buttigieg, where he expressed an interest in getting ships sailing again.

"I certainty care a lot about seeing the cruise sector thrive. I know that the CDC is hopeful that a lot of these operators will be in a position to be sailing by mid-summer"

"We want to do this as soon as we responsibly can but we also have to make sure that it's safe."

In order to get there, he conceded that cruise lines need to pass through "gates" for ships "to get through" before they can get federal approval. 

He did not specify which regulations that were, but it is likely a reference to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO).

In recent weeks, the cruise industry has criticized the CSO as being overly complicated, outdated, and unnecessary.

Instead, cruise lines have proposed dropping the CSO completely and allowing cruise ships to sail under the submitted extensive new health protocols.

One reporter asked Mr. Buttigieg about the double standard cruise lines face that airlines do not, and his response was, "airlines have one safety profile; cruise ships have another."

"I’m the secretary of Transportation. I can’t wait for us all to be on the move as much as possible in a safe and responsible way, but it’s gotta be safe and responsible."

In the same briefing, a reporter asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about when cruise ships would take to the waters again.

"We certainly recognize the importance of the cruise ship industry to the Alaska economy," Psaki said.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line CEOs call for cruises to be allowed to sail


The cruise industry is an all-out offensive to do what they can to get the word out there for cruise ships to be able to sail again.

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) CEOs both took to television interviews in the last couple of days to highlight the different rules the cruise industry faces compared to other forms of travel.

Over the last few weeks, the cruise industry has gone on the offensive to demonstrate to the public the lengths the cruise lines are going to keep everyone safe on a ship while the proposals falling on deaf ears.

NCLH CEO Frank Del Rio spoke on CNN and talked about how cruise lines simply wanted to be treated fairly, "There are many, if not all, travel, tourism and hospitality venues that are open throughout the country, that never shut down or certainly open today."

"The CDC is is not cooperating up to now. And so I think it's time that the cruise industry, the people, understand the plight that we're under."

"Why should we be different?"

Mr. Del Rio pointed out NCLH's proposal to U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to require every person on its ships be vaccinated so that its ships can cruise by July, but Del Rio says they have heard nothing back.

Their plan calls for 100% vaccination of guests and crew onboard, as well as strict health and safety protocols for all sailing sailing through October 31, 2021.

"I challenge you to tell me another venue on Earth where you can be guaranteed that everyone inside that venue, whether it's a grocery store or an office building, a school, a resort, a casino, a hotel, everyone is vaccinated, protected. And on top of that, you layer in this multi pronged seventy four protocols developed by the best scientific minds in America. What could possibly be safer than that?"

Mr. Del Rio's comments come just a day after Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke on CBS about his cruise line's preparations to sail again.

"All the cruise lines are working towards the best protocols that includes new ways of circulating air and filtration, includes cleanliness, ways to clean areas. It includes testing," Fain said.

Mr. Fain points to the extensive safety protocols cruise ships are proposing as being superior to anywhere else on land, "Nobody can guarantee anybody is safe from COVID anywhere in America or anywhere else. Actually, the irony is, if you go on a ship, you're going to reduce your risk of coming down with the virus."

The cruise industry offensive against the CDC's inaction has seen strong and stronger rhetoric following months in which executives avoided discussing the CDC's approach.

Read more5 ways the CDC proves it doesn't understand cruise ships

After five months of no updates, and even a token update last week with no tangible changes, the industry has been turning up the heat.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) called on the U.S. government to once again lift the Conditional Sail Order (CSO), rather than continue with the CDC's plan.

Moreover, CLIA is imploring everyone in the cruise industry, as well as cruise fans) to tell Congress cruise ships deserve to sail.

CLIA has set up a form that anyone can use to contact their representatives at

Royal Caribbean sent an email to past cruisers on Friday asking for their support, "If you’re ready to see cruising return, we urge you to call, email and tweet your Senators and U.S. Representatives in support of lifting the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order (CSO) and allowing healthy cruising to resume from the U.S. by the beginning of July 2021."

Florida sues CDC to get cruise ships sailing again


Florida is following through on its threat to sue the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in order to get cruise ships started up again.

Florida Governor Ron Desantis announced on Thursday the state is filing a lawsuit against the federal government, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC, demanding cruise ships be reopened immediately.

"Today, I'm happy to announce that on behalf of the tens of thousands of other Floridians, whose livelihood depends on the viability of an open cruise industry, today Florida is fighting back. We're filing a lawsuit against the federal government and the CDC, demanding that all cruise ships be reopened immediately."

At a press conference in Miami, the Governor and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the new legal fight.

The lawsuit is an attempt to get the CDC to drop the Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO), which is not allowing cruise ships to sail despite airlines, theme parks, casinos, and rail to operate without any hindrance.

Ms. Moody elaborate who this lawsuit is directed against, "We have filed suit this morning just before meeting with you here today, against the administration, HHS and the CDC, demanding that the court find that this effective No Sail Order is unlawful and allow our cruises to resume safely."

Just a few weeks ago, Governor DeSantis threatened legal action at a press conference with every major cruise line CEO, but today that threat has become a reality.

Read moreWhy does the CDC regulate the cruise lines?

DeSantis criticized how long cruises have been shutdown without any end in sight, "I don't think you can just indefinitely shutter major, major businesses and cost all these jobs. So we want a way forward."

"We have people flying on airplanes, they're on buses, hotels, restaurants, theme parks, casinos, bars, you name it. But somehow the cruise is viewed as differently."

DeSantis pointed out to how effective the Covid-19 vaccine is, and believes that alone is proof enough to get cruises going again.

Read moreEverything we know about if Royal Caribbean will require a vaccine

Compounding the issue are Americans traveling abroad to cruise instead of sailing from Florida.

Ms. Moody is concerned that trend will continue if nothing is done, "If we do not do this, you will see cruises continue to move these cruises to other countries."

Governor DeSantis believes the CDC has no right to shutdown the cruise industry for this long, given the "very little evidence and very little data" provided by the agency.

CLIA asked why CDC is holding cruise ships to a double standard


When comparing how the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is treating the cruise industry versus other aspects of travel, there appears to be a massive double standard.

President and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Kelly Craighead spoke to travel agents during a webinar on Wednesday and was asked why is cruise shutdown by the CDC while hotels, theme parks, airlines and casinos are able to operate.

While Ms. Craighead conceded she does not have direct insight into what anyone at the CDC may be thinking, she believes cruise ships have become an unfortunate symbol of Covid-19 stemming from the early days of the pandemic. Specifically, the cruise ships in Asia and Australia that were denied entry by government to treat anyone onboard for Covid-19 and as a result, the ship was left isolated without recourse.

"Cruise was an early symbol of the pandemic and the impact to them [CDC], I think, ...understandably put them in a mindset of zero risk."

"As you've seen with other industries, the name of the game now really needs to be about mitigating risk."

Read more5 ways the CDC proves it doesn't understand cruise ships

Ms. Craighead's comments are in reference to the airline industry, which is able to operate with the understanding that they take certain actions to limit risk, but it is acceptable that some cases may be present.

"The irony is that today an American can fly to any number of destinations to take a cruise, but cannot board a ship in the U.S." was a statement made by CLIA earlier this week.

Part of CLIA's aim is to change the notion of "one case is one too many" to cruise ships being treated the same as other forms of leisure travel.

"If we can shift the mindset into mitigating risk, understanding that everyone is trying to get back to business even while there's still a health emergency, is one of the cases we're trying to make."

In addition, Ms. Craighead thinks the significant effort to come up with substantive and stringent new health protocols for cruise ships is also lost in the mix.

"The protocols that are in place are really designed as all protocols for cruising are, is to go over and beyond and to point to how difficult it would be for covid to be on a ship, and how if Covid presented on a ship, that accommodations have been made in every respect, from ventilation to medical capabilities, to the prearranged contracted services that exist between the destinations, visitors and the health authority."

Read moreHow Royal Caribbean will circulate air on its cruise ships to protect against coronavirus

How realistic is July for cruises to restart?

Even if cruise lines received permission to sail, how realistic is July as a timeframe for cruises to be able to restart sailing?

Ms. Craighead said the ramp up would take "about 90 days" to get a ship ready for service, but the bigger issue is how soon cruise lines can get the go-ahead to start planning.

"Is July 1st realistic really depends on when we get the go ahead to cruise, because it takes about 90 days, for the most part to have the ships ready to sail following the stringent protocols that have been adopted by a cruise line members."

A key deadline for July cruises is May 1, according to Craighead.

"If we get the word by May 1st, we feel we can have ships ready by July 1st."

Royal Caribbean has only cancelled cruises through the end of May 2021, while NCL and Carnival have both cancelled cruises through the end of June 2021.

Why can't cruise lines ignore the CDC and start sailing now?

Some cruise fans have been wondering why can't cruise ships simply bypass the CDC and start sailing on their own accord without permission.

Ms. Craighead pointed out the emergency powers the CDC has due to the public health emergency created by Covid-19.

"They have emergency powers that we uniquely have to adhere to."

CDC confirms test cruises are the next phase of cruises restarting


Earlier today the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provided technical instructions for cruise lines, and it now appears test cruises are next.

In a press release that followed the new technical guidance, the agency confirmed simulated voyages (aka test cruises) will be next as part of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).

"The next phase of the CSO will include simulated (trial) voyages that will allow crew and port personnel to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers."

No timeline was provided with that statement on when Phase 2B might commence.

Test cruises are when cruise lines can operate ships with volunteer passengers in order to prove their new protocols work.

While phase 2A of the CSO did not include much in the way of tangible steps forward, the possibility of test cruises on the horizon gives hope change is on the horizon.

In its statement, the CDC said it is "committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising when it is safe to do so, following the phased approach outlined in the CSO."

Read moreEverything you need to know about Royal Caribbean test cruises

In addition, the CDC specifically mentioned Covid-19 vaccines are being "critical" in allowing cruises with passengers to begin.

"COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of passenger operations.

"As more people are fully vaccinated, the phased approach allows CDC to incorporate these advancements into planning for resumption of cruise ship travel when it is safe to do so."

"CDC recommends that all eligible port personnel and travelers (passengers and crew) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them."

Read moreEverything we know about if Royal Caribbean will require a vaccine

The agency also added that it recognizes cruise ship operations can be conducted "safely and responsibly during a global pandemic."

"While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, following the phases of  the CSO will ensure cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern."

Why test cruises are so important

In late October, the CDC issued the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order that said any cruise line that wants to restart from the United States needs to apply for a conditional sailing certificate 60 days before a voyage. But before that happens, they need to run test sailings with volunteers — and must provide written notice 30 days in advance.

All volunteer passengers and crew members must follow testing protocols, which include rapid testing prior to both embarkation and disembarkation.

Simulated sailings will need to meet CDC expectations for certification, which includes passengers wearing masks, wash and sanitize hands, and practice social distancing. 

Read moreTop 14 things the CDC requires cruise ships do on test sailings

Disappointing update

The CDC released technical instructions earlier on Friday, but the update was far from what most cruise fans were hoping for.

The Phase 2A instructions included new requirements related to bringing crew members and other workers onboard, as well as testing requirements, but nothing substantially different.

After waiting months for any update, the CDC's news landed like a lead balloon. Many felt it was more of the same with little indication cruise ships might be able to sail from United States anytime soon.

This result was something Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley warned earlier this week was likely.

Mr. Bayley used the word, "worried" to describe what the CDC may tell cruise lines to do if they actually provided any kind of guidance.

"We're worried that the guidance that we're going to get is going to be pretty outdated."