Majority of cruise lines opt-in to CDC’s voluntary COVID program

Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Seabourn and Royal Caribbean are among at least 18 cruise lines and counting that have opted-in to the CDC’s updated COVID program for cruise ships operating in US waters.

The CDC’s new colour-tracking COVID-19 dashboard shows 18 different cruise brands as having opted-in to the program, representing around 110 cruise ships and all mainstream cruise ships operating in US waters.

The new CDC program replaces the Conditional Sailing Order, which itself replaced the No Sail Order that was introduced when COVID-19 first emerged as a major pandemic, bringing the entire cruise industry to a halt globally.

The new program retains many features of the Conditional Sailing Order, but will be voluntary for cruise lines

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The new voluntary CDC program retains many elements of the Conditional Sailing Order, but cruise lines do not have to join it to operate out of US ports. Those that do join, however, will need to adhere to all elements of the program.

This includes health and safety practises already established by the cruise industry, such as pre-cruise testing, social distancing, mask wearing (for the unvaccinated) and enhanced sanitation, as well as more controversial elements, such as the need to report all cases to the CDC, which then assigns a colour-code to each ship.

Cruise lines that have joined the new CDC program:

Bahamas Paradise

Carnival Corporation (Carnival, Holland, Princess, Seabourn)

Disney Cruise Line

Crystal Cruises

MSC Cruises

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (Norwegian, Oceania, Regent)

Royal Caribbean Cruises (Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Silversea)

SeaDream Yacht Club


Viking Cruises

Virgin Voyages

The most significant change to the CDC’s guidance to cruise lines is the dropping of mask mandates for cruises operating with at least 95% fully vaccinated passengers.

Masks are now recommended, but not mandatory, leaving it up to cruise lines to determine the extent to which they want guests to wear masks.

Already Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Holland America Line, and Princess Cruises, have announced that they switch from enforcing mask mandates to recommending that guests wear them.

“[Royal Caribbean] will operate under the program’s Highly Vaccinated category beginning with sailings departing from the US as of Friday, February 25th,” said Michael Bayley, CEO, Royal Caribbean International.

“The updated protocols will include face masks being optional for all fully vaccinated guests and expected for unvaccinated children,” he added.

Michael Bayley, President & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises

“All kids will be required to wear face masks during Adventure Ocean youth program activities… because the youth program is kids under 5 not vaccinated and a small percentage of kids 5 to 12 not fully vaccinated as well as fully vaccinated kids participating,” Bayley explained.

Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line, said the transition to the new CDC program was testament to the cruise industry’s efforts to prove that cruising could be resumed safely and responsibly amid the pandemic.

“We have had a very successful restart of guest operations thanks to the support of our guests, the commitment of our shipboard team, and the effective protocols we have put in place,” said Duffy.

“The public health situation has continued to improve, providing confidence about these changes. Our protocols will evolve as we continue to remain dedicated to protecting the public health of our guests, crew and the communities we visit,” she added.

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