Major cruise lines say they will test all passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to boarding as part of their plan for resuming sailing in the Americas.
The Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group that represents 95% of global ocean-going cruise capacity, said Monday that its members will also require passengers and crew to wear masks while onboard whenever physical distancing can’t be maintained.
No date has been set for the resumption of cruising in the U.S., the Caribbean and Mexico. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a no-sail order for U.S. waters through Sept. 30. The association’s safety plan will now go to the CDC, which will consider it as the agency decides whether to lift the no-sail order. The order has been extended twice since March.
The cruise association has issued a voluntary suspension of cruises through Oct. 31. In a conference call Monday, Arnold Donald, the president and CEO of Carnival Corp., said once the CDC lifts its order, it will probably take cruise lines at least a month to prepare their ships and train crew before they can sail.
The safety plan requires testing of passengers and crew, but doesn’t specify the types of coronavirus tests that companies must use, CLIA Chairman Adam Goldstein said. Passengers and crew must test negative to board.
The plan permits limited shore excursions and requires passengers to wear masks and stay apart from other people during those excursions. Passengers who don’t comply won’t be allowed to reboard.
The plan also requires ships to increase the amount of fresh air in their ventilation systems and use advanced filtration methods where feasible.
Cruise company executives said the limited resumption of cruising in Europe and elsewhere over the last few weeks has convinced them that cruising can be done safely. Costa Cruises, which is owned by Carnival Corp., has two cruises of Italy this month. The ships aren't at full capacity and only Italian passengers are on board.
In August, a passenger on board the Paul Gauguin, a ship owned by Tahiti-based Paul Gauguin Cruises, tested positive for COVID-19 despite a health screening prior to boarding, CLIA said. The passenger and a family member were removed from the ship and placed in isolation on land. No other passengers were affected, CLIA said.
The safety agreement is an unusual one in the fiercely competitive industry, which has been seriously shaken by the coronavirus.
“We all share the same goal, and we’re going to get there through collaboration, not competition,” said Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Cruise’s chairman and CEO.
Hundreds of people fell ill aboard crowded cruises earlier this year before the CDC's no-sail order went into effect. Fourteen passengers died after an outbreak aboard Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off the coast of Japan in February.
Since then, the industry has furloughed thousands of workers and obtained billions in bank loans to stay afloat. CLIA says the U.S. cruise industry supports more than 400,000 jobs and generates $53 billion annually.