In an apparent nod to executive orders issued by new US President Joe Biden, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released an order requiring all cruise ships sailing from US ports to enforce mask-wearing in public spaces.
The order came into effect on February 1st, even though there are currently no cruise ships operating from any US ports, due to ongoing measures by cruise lines to meet the CDC’s previously announced Conditional Sailing Order.
The Conditional Sailing Order will assess ships on an individual basis to see if they meet the CDC’s anti-COVID-19 measures before allowing them to sail.
The order includes all public forms of transport into or out of the United States, so cruise ships as well as trains, busses and airplanes.
“Requiring masks on our transportation systems will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel safely even during this pandemic,” said the order, which was signed by Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.
“Therefore, requiring masks will help us control this pandemic and aid in reopening America’s economy,” he added.
Passengers may take the mask off to eat, drink or take medications for brief periods, as well as for communication purposes.
Children under the age of two are exempt, as are those with a disability who cannot safely wear a mask.
Cruise lines operating in Europe and elsewhere already have mask requirements aboard in all public areas, and in some cases provide fresh face masks to guests on a daily basis.
The mandatory mask requirement is new from the CDC, but is one of a series of safety measures that were already introduced by the global cruise industry last year.
Although the order will not come as a surprise to most American cruise passengers, it could have some impact on the willingness of passengers to return to sea when cruises resume.
When the Royal Caribbean Blog asked its readers whether they would still go on a cruise if wearing a mask was mandatory, around 60% said ‘no’.
However, that was back in May, 2020, when little was known about the disease and mask-wearing had become a political football.
With mask-wearing now more prevalent across the United States, the worst-hit developed country in terms of case numbers and deaths, more passengers may be willing to wear one aboard ship.