CDC Lifts Cruise Ship ‘No Sail’ Order. Will You Cruise?

The CDC has lifted its cruise ship ‘no sail’ order. Or rather they’re allowing the no sail order to expire. And in its place is a framework to allow cruise ships return to sea with revenue passengers.

The ban was last extended at the end of September, to last through end of October. At the time there had been 3689 confirmed Covid-19 cases or ‘Covid-like illnesses’ on board cruise ships just in U.S. waters, along with 41 reported deaths.

Now the new guidance lays out how cruise ships have to prepare for safe protocols, including crewmember testing and ship board laboratories that will be able to test passengers. Masks are going to be required in public spaces when social distancing isn’t possible.

In late September the first cruise ship to sail in Greece tested all passengers and crew prior to departure, but during the journey 12 crewmembers tested positive. The company says these were false positives with no symptoms and follow up negative tests.

All major U.S. ships have cancelled their trips through November, so it will be December at the earliest – and the bureaucracy moves slowly so perhaps not then – when ships begin to cruise again. The first trips are expected to depart from Florida at reduced capacity.

So is that enough?

  • Indoor congregant settings without sufficient ventilation gathering together a demographic that skews older and more vulnerable to the virus seems inadvisable to me.

  • But from a public health standpoint people isolating themselves on a cruise aren’t going to contribute substantially to community spread if they’re regularly tested.

  • The number of people picking up the virus on a ship, testing negative prior to disembarkation while incubating the virus, and subsequently spreading it in the community will very limited.

In the context of a growing epidemic in the U.S., I wouldn’t go anywhere near a cruise ship but also don’t see much public health benefit from banning them either providing rigorous testing is in place. Will you cruise while before the pandemic ends?

Norwegian’s CEO agrees with me, saying it’s crazy people are booking cruises now, but they are… And there are potentially even greater risks to a ship than Covid.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. We have two booked for next year (first one is July-ish), but will cancel them if we aren’t vaccinated.

  2. Hell to the no

    Those things are already floating petri dishes in the best of (pre-pandemic) times

    And good luck trying to dock anywhere when the inevitable positive cases on-board surface

  3. Cruise lines got a bad rap from people who A) don’t cruise of rarely cruise; B) the media and bloggers and C) government that needed a scape goat for not taking action (sound familiar Australia). Just like the airlines, adjustments need to be made cleaning and service, testing needs to be increased and the Dumb Ass people who won’t wash their hands, ware a mask or take care when they feel ill need to be held responsible and stop thinking they know more then scientists!

    Thinking Hawaii in the spring; cruising in the early fall (New England cruise). Gald to have them back!

  4. Not a chance. Not for free. Not if they paid me. This is really an activity that the world can do without for a while. Makes no sense for at least another 6-12 months. They should not have lifted the ban, and it will likely not end well at all for the cruise lines or any passengers courageous or foolish enough to travel anytime in the near future.

  5. Not a chance. But I wouldn’t have in the before times either.

    Waste of money. So many better ways to travel than cruises..

  6. The virus is already mutating and weakening worldwide, more so in places already hit hard. Cases may spike seasonally (Winter in temperate zones), like any virus, but will drop drastically by April. Deaths and hospitalizations, the numbers the media and officials like to hide, will not rise much at all this winter season, compared to the mid-April deaths this year, as proof of sentence one.

    And since Biden will win, he will take all the credit when cases/deaths etc drop in Feb-March 2021… but he had nothing to do with it, the climate and natural viral evolution did.

    Take that to the bank, and I will be on the first cheap cruise in the Spring.

  7. It would be helpful if relevant, reliable statistics and comparisons were available. For example, what percentage of passengers came down with, e.g., a norovirus in pre-COVID times? Have any statistical risks been calculated if passengers are diligent about handwashing, social distancing (much activity can be outside) and, when social distancing isn’t possible or practical, mask-wearing? What are the CDC’s prevention and mitigation guidelines and what impact are they calculated to have on the risk of transmission on board?

  8. If I lived in a country that had Universal Health Care, sure. However in America the average cost WITH insurance for a COVID-19 hospitalization is $26,000. And it’s hard to trust the government will ever give me health care when I’ve paid more in taxes than the president and Walter Reed won’t give me a free bed for $750.

  9. I know that you know that I love to cruise. In 50 cruises (most recent being February 2020), never caught so much as a sniffle. However, I’m not lining up to board this year and at least part of next. If one really reads that order, you’ll see there’s no small list of things cruise lines will have to accomplish. While I’m willing to be proven wrong, I don’t think it’s likely that any of them have the infrastructure to comply before 2021.They could certainly start some non revenue test sailings late this year……maybe. It’s almost November, so I’m not so sure about that.

  10. Wouldn’t jump on a ship until I see 6 months of reliably good Covid trend. Also, If ongoing health restrictions taken by cruise lines are too stringent, cruising isn’t enjoyable and I’ll look for other vacation experiences that are less impacted.

  11. Everyone is an armchair doctor these days.
    I love cruising but the main reason I’m waiting is the rules on masks (not fun for a cruise vacation) and the way they have locked down the excursions. You have to book through the cruise line or not be allowed off the ships. When that improves I’ll be back.

  12. Of course I would go
    For a quarter of million dollars paid to me I’ll go
    But I want a cabin with Hepa Filters changed daily a kitchen and I’ll bring my own food and beverage

  13. Give me a guarantee that the boat will be allowed to dock at the final destination and that I’ll be allowed to get off and then I’ll consider a cruise.

  14. RCCL Quantum of the Seas will begin cruises in December from Singapore. But… the only people allowed to board the ship will be Singaporeans.

  15. Booked for end of February. I have flown several times and stayed in hotels this year. Even with the flu shot last year I got the flu. Refuse to sit at home.

  16. Have they addressed the heating and cooling systems? Without heavy duty filters couldn’t it spread through the ventilation systems? Many hotels recirculate the air, one reason I’m staying away from the big ones.

  17. I live in FL. The ban on cruises was lifted prematurely due to the President’s political pressure and while he has been campaigning down here he has said so. He wanted the industry opened. So does our Republican governor. The industry had been opened up NOT relative to science but due to political pressure. We are just now starting a 2nd wave and it is going to get way worse. Teachers we know here in FL are coming down with the virus as schools are fully open. NONE of this should be political. Tons of jobs in FL surround this industry. I am 69 and my wife is 65. THERE IS NO DARN WAY WE ARE GETTING ON A CRUISE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW. WHEN AND IF WE HAVE A GOOD VACCINE….THEN WE WILL GO, NOT BEFORE. I think anyone that takes this risk is simply nuts.

  18. I fell back in love with cruising in 2019 with a life-changing Alaska cruise on Norwegian and a fun Carnival cruise to Mexico with family.

    When cruising returns to the U.S. (I predict January 2021), ships will only be booked to about 50%-60% occupancy and there will be very few bargain fares.

    But yes, I’ll be on a cruise in early 2021. I’ve been on 12 Southwest flights since May and have another trip booked in November.

    Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, drink lots of fluids, get 8 hours of sleep and enjoy travel again.

  19. Sure, providing there are no big outbreaks for the during the first six months. We have three cruises booked with Azamara (max passengers 700) starting in Aug of 2021. Missed four cruises this year so we are anxious to return to sea. By then most ports should be open. Of course a vaccine would be extremely welcome as we are both in our late 70’s.

  20. As a veteran of 24 cruises (of which 22 were in the past 20 years). my wife and I look forward to again cruising. But we won’t be on the first ship that sails, as we will wait until an effective vaccine is widely available and we both have received it. Just an abundance of caution, as we are now entering that “vulnerable group”.

    As far as the popular nickname “floating petri dish”, I am curious if that nomenclature is being used by experienced cruisers or by people just picking it up from reading it elsewhere.

    During each and every cruise we have been on, neither of us have EVER (as in “not even once”) become sick during it, or from it. I credit common sense and ordinary sanitation efforts in helping us avoid the very common norovirus just like you should be doing in your home or in a restaurant in your neighborhood. This includes washing hands after using the restroom and–on a ship–after contacting high-touch areas such as elevator buttons and the handrails on stairs. And always using the ship-provided hand sanitizer upon entering any dining venue.

    On a related matter, for those that feel that there are better ways than cruising to travel, to vacation, to see other countries, I won’t begin to debate the issue. Cruises are definitely not for everyone, just as land-based group tours are definitely not for everyone. But the millions of people that cruise annually–in non-pandemic times–freely make a conscious choice to do so for a variety of reasons. And some have made that choice 24 times……and are patiently waiting to make it a 25th, 26th, 27th….time.

    As the song goes, “Come Sail Away”.

  21. I don’t plan on cruising before 2022 but we have a 19-day cruise scheduled beginning the end of February 2022. Not sitting at home any longer. We’re taking the precautions of hand washing and wearing masks but people are not meant to stay home and not associate with other people.

  22. I’ve been on close to 100 cruises and no, I won’t step on one until vaccinations are available and everyone on board is vaccinated. Masks and social distancing on cruise ships along with regimented shore excursion aren’t going to work in the long run.

  23. I will start cruising again next year. In my opinion, It is in the cruise lines’ best interest to make sure we stay healthy. That includes measures to keep things clean /sanitized, along with making everyone keeps hands washed/ sanitized. Those calling cruise ships petri dishes never were cruise lovers, & not likely to take any cruise even before covid

  24. We have a transatlantic crossing planned for late October 2021. Here’s hoping things will improve by then so we can take it.

  25. For everyone saying yes, how do you feel about the scenario where there are confirmed cases and the ship is blocked from docking?

  26. I love cruising, I took my first cruise back in 2007 and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve done around 30 cruises since my first cruise. I do have 2 cruise already booked for October (a 7 day) and November (a 9 day) cruise. I’m hoping there is a vaccine out and available by then because I don’t think social distancing will work on a cruise ship, it goes against everything on a cruise ship and to be honest the crowds on a cruise ship have never bothered me. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC are great at spreading out people so in most cases the ship never feels overly crowded.

    However I am glad the CDC has ended its no sail order, I feel like the cruise industry has been unfairly targeted by governments around the world while airlines have escaped relatively unscathed. The virus didn’t make its way to New York or Washington State via cruise ships. The virus crossed the Pacific Ocean via airplanes and yet airlines have been allowed to continue operations with very little oversight and regulations while the cruise industry has been shut down and now will be heavily regulated when sailing out of U.S. waters.

  27. The CDC lifting of its No Sail edict may be moot if Biden wins.

    A Biden Administration will likely reassess just about everything the Trump Administration has done in reference to the Covid response in the US.

    This will likely mean that the Biden CDC may reimpose the No Sail orders soon after January 20, 2021.

  28. Perhaps Biden will do that. But history has proven that all respiratory viruses get worse in the cold, dry months, and decrease in infection in the warmer, more humid months … meaning, in all the temperate areas (NE US, Europe) with increasing cases as we go into winter, the cases will drop in Feb, and even more dramatically in Spring, all within 30 days after Biden takes office in late Jan. He will take credit for the drop in cases, deaths and hospitalizations, regardless of any government interventions. I will put money on it.

    When the media scare-mongering and annoying restrictions on cruise enjoyment ends, people will gradually want to sail. And allowing airlines to operate but shut down cruise ships is proof enough of inconsistent govt action and arbitrary rules.

  29. Jeffery – you are aware EVERYone is NOT equally at risk when you say “I think anyone that takes this risk is simply nuts.”

    If one is metabolically healthy, and have high Vit D3 levels and a strong immune system, you have less to chance of getting Corona than getting the flu. And I have not gotten the flu in the last 20 years nor have I gotten the flu shot.

    Leave political parties out of this. All public health people on TV have been willfully negligent in blaming the people for viral spread instead of EDUCATING us on immune system boosting, the fundamental of microbial impact on organisms. Limiting exposure via hand-washing etc is not immune-boosting. Demand more of your elected officials and “infectious disease” so-called experts like Fauci. When people get paid regardless of outcomes, what they say does not matter.

  30. I’ve been on more than 100 cruises and think it’s one of the safest industries when it comes to protecting the public. Prior to Covid-19 all passengers had to fill out health questionnaires before boarding any ship and it kept everyone safe. I am ready to go cruising with several family members and friends. Since the cruise ships have not been operating the virus seems to be spreading even more , if people were to get tested and isolated themselves on the ship it would slow the spread of covid.

  31. So the CDC is on again, off again with cruises…….most of the crews are away from the ships, so before they go anywhere they have to get the crews back on board, have them all tested, clean the ships, etc. Last I read (this mornng) the CDC has now flipped again and said no one’s going anywhere until 2021.
    If you’re sick, stay home. OSHA has said there’s no mask made to protect from the virus. Taking temperatures is a bust – how many people are asymptomatic, and never have an abnormal temp or exhibit symptoms. Staying home or quarantined, constantly washing hands, wearing a mask – all contribute to the failure of one’s immune system. And now for the latest: The CDC has decided NOT to track the now-upon-us flu season….which it has for decades to scare us into taking the flu shot, which they then come out midway through flu season and exclaim that it’s a different strain and the shot was for naught. It’s a game folks….fresh air and sunshine does a body good! We’re constantly passing all manner of viruses, etc., around, and it contributes to the “herd immunity”…without that exposure, you can bet come next summer, there will be millions of pasty faced, sickly, children and adults who have no immunity to anything!!

  32. Eddie – Wow! That is an innovative ans logical perspective. Quarantine cruises. Compared to the lockdown lunacy current governments in UK and Chicago are mandating, you idea is refreshing. No sarcasm here at all.

  33. Comments are very interesting, especially those from individuals who say that they will not cruise until an effective vaccine is available & everyone is vaccinated. Do those individuals actually believe that any vaccine will be 100% effective? Flu vaccines aren’t nor will the COVID-19 vaccine. Does anyone who can think really believe that masks prevent someone from contracting COVID-19?

    I’m 81 with a very healthy immune system. Have been tested twice and both times results were negative yet I tested positive for anti-bodies. Obviously I was asymptomatic this past summer.

    Have not slowed down socially nor do I plan to. My late wife & I did 32 cruises & I have done 2 more since. Have 4 booked for 2021 & the first 2 legs of a world cruise in 2022. For those who don’t want to cruise for any reason, please stay home. Those of us who love to cruise will understand.
    The cruise industry has been a wonderful scapegoat for our politicians. Hope it ends soon.

  34. For ANYONE that has ponied up money for a cruise DO NOT expect a refund if your cruise is cancelled. And cruise credits? These will usually be restricted and not usable on many cruises. And if these cruise lines go the bankruptcy route ANY money paid will be voided along with your cruise credits. If you want to roll the dice that is your choice. Good luck.

  35. Lenny, Thanks for having the courage to say what many of us are thinking. God speed on your future cruises.

  36. @Wayne Johnson

    What is your basis for stating that no one will receive a refund if their cruise is cancelled? In September 2020, my February 2021 Australia cruise on Celebrity was cancelled by Celebrity. I was offered my choice of either a 100% refund or 125% in FCC and I selected the full refund.

    Celebrity has already refunded the full amount I paid back to my credit card.

    Anecdotally, I understand that earlier in 2020 many cruise refunds have taken a lengthy period of time to process. This is most likely a result of the huge volume of refunds being requested. Cruisers dealing with the major cruise lines have little basis to worry that they will not receive refunds on cruises that are cancelled by said cruise lines. If a cruise line files for bankruptcy, it does not necessarily mean they are ceasing operations but rather reorganizing (just like GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009). If a credit card is used to pay for a cruise (which is always highly recommended no matter the current pandemic), there is also a process to have the credit card company/bank charge-back the amount you paid and you will get a refund.

    Bottom line, for me, is that paying for a cruise with a major credit card carries negligible risk of losing your money if the cruise line cancels the cruise.

  37. No way am I getting on a cruise ship! To be stuck at sea in your cabin for days/weeks with the virus growing and no where to dock, and then possible death (worse case scenario), that is not appealing what so ever. With so many other travel options available these days, I don’t know why anyone would choose to cruise.

  38. The Kansas City Star newspaper this morning reported that the ban on cruises in the US was extended to Dec. 31st!

  39. From some of the responses, I detect there are folks who, being the sole occupant of their automobile, are wearing goggles, masks, and surgical gloves…………

    Remember, the media is all about ratings and selling their product – actual deaths are down as are hospitalizations. On the other hand “testing” is way UP ….so if the numbers from the former don’t get you headlines, you create them…and now positive tests – many from folks who are otherwise asymptomatic – are listed as “cases”…….and those numbers have the public scrambling again. It’s become about CONTROL, not health or safety. If OSHA says there’s NO mask made to protect from viruses, and they are the subject matter expert, don’t you think there’s some marketing folks out there watching the money roll in as the “sheeple” rush out to buy what they think will protect them from the virus.. Oh yeah, the CDC has just announced they are NOT going to track the FLU this year……first time in history………….what’s that tell you???? Go on a cruise – get a balcony room, enjoy the fresh air and sunshine ….go up on the upper decks, enjoy the fresh air and sunshine .. stay out of the casino (cigarette smoke is bad for your health….) Go ahead and stay home ….less people on board, more space for the rest of us……

  40. Well said…at this point in time does anyone believe what the CDC says?…as far as wearing masks is concerned I go along to get along knowing full well that the masks being sold to the sheeple are useless against COVID-19.

    Really looking forward to my first cruise of the year in March aboard the Regent Seven Seas Splendor…have three more sailings booked for 2021 and I intend to sail on all of them…even let my Travel Counselor book me on the first two legs of a Regent Seven Seas world cruise in 2022.

    Such is life!!

  41. ….and speaking of “control” …it seems the Democrat candidate for President has publicly stated that he intends to require total compliance with mask wearing for the entire nation when he takes office, for an infinite period of time. While he has the entire country masked up in useless and health dangerous masks he’s also going to gut the Second Amendment so you won’t be able to defend or protect yourself or your family….. (perhaps his long-term mask wearing is showing in his inability to speak or have mental acuity…….

  42. For those who dread being stranded on a ship for at least two weeks, you don’t know what you are missing, especially if you are in a suite, which is what I always book…as long as the vino flows, who cares.
    Remember the Swine Flu of the 70s…the vaccine caused a lot of pain & misery .
    Received a note from a good friend which said ” no longer 5:00 pm somewhere; it’s 2020 everywhere; drink whenever you want…Amen!!”
    Life is way too short to not to enjoy it…cruising is the way I intend to enjoy what life I have left.

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