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Port Canaveral details steps for return of cruise ships

Limited capacity, simulated cruises, testing facilities onboard among requirements

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Cruise ships may sail again before the year is over after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it would let the most recent no-sail order expire.

The latest no-sail order for passenger cruise ships expired at the end of October and ship operators can now begin a phased resumption of operations in U.S. waters, according to the CDC.

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“CDC will ensure cruise ship operators have adequate health and safety protections for crew members while these cruise ship operators build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers,” conditional framework reads.

At his annual “State of the Port” address, Port Canaveral CEO and Director Capt. John Murray detailed how that would work.

COVID-19's impact on Port Canaveral. (Image: Port Canaveral)
COVID-19's impact on Port Canaveral. (Image: Port Canaveral) (WKMG)

The first phase will include virus testing for all crew members and ensuring operators have safety measures in place for testing locations on ships. Later phases will include simulated voyages to test safety measures and the risk of COVID-19.

“All ships will have testing facilities on board,” Murray said.

The first no-sail order was issued in mid-March and later extended three more times during the past seven months.

“The biggest concern that I personally have is the case load for COVID-19 right now is exploding,” Murray said. “As that gets worse, it will have a detrimental effect on people wanting to go back to cruises and getting support from the CDC to get them back in business.”

Several cruise lines have already canceled sailing for the remainder of the year, including Disney Cruise Lines. Carnival Cruise Line canceled November cruises from Port Canaveral and Miami.

COVID-19's impact on Port Canaveral. (Image: Port Canaveral)
COVID-19's impact on Port Canaveral. (Image: Port Canaveral) (WKMG)

Murray expects those same ports to be the first to reopen.

“We’re ideally suited for the short voyages,” he said. “When the industry restarts, you’re not going to see seven-day voyages out of the gate. You’re going to see the three, four, five [day voyages] and our geographic location gives us access to all those routes. It’s going to be a slow build up involving testing passengers and crew, 50% capacity when they first start and no cruise longer than seven days at least through November of next year.”

Port Canaveral recently reported a $18 million loss for this budget year due to halted cruise operations.

COVID-19's impact on Port Canaveral. (Image: Port Canaveral)
COVID-19's impact on Port Canaveral. (Image: Port Canaveral) (WKMG)

“Basically, our cruise revenue stopped after March 14th,” Murray added.

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