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CDC COVID update reflects what cruise lines are already doing, adds 'gray' color code

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's newly issued updates to its COVID-19 instructions for cruise ships reflect what lines are already doing, an operations source said.

'The cruise lines are already doing most of these items, if not all,' according to the source.

On Friday, CDC updated its technical instructions and cruise ship COVID-19 operations manual based on cases rising stateside due to the Delta variant and evidence of breakthrough COVID-19 cases in fully vaccinated individuals.

Even vaccinated cruisers should be tested pre-cruise

For example, effective Sept. 13, CDC advises fully vaccinated passengers present a negative test (PCR or antigen) taken no more than two days before embarkation or to be tested at embarkation. Such testing is already required for unvaccinated passengers.

Many cruise lines are already requiring all passengers to be tested — either because that's always been their policy (Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises) or because it was recently instituted (Carnival Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean).

Masking advised

And, effective immediately, the agency advised cruise operators to voluntarily reconsider these policies: allowing fully vaccinated crew to remove masks indoors in areas inaccessible to passengers, designating areas as only accessible to fully vaccinated passengers and crew where masks and physical distancing are not required and advising passengers and crew on 95% vaccinated ships that they do not have to wear a mask or maintain physical distance in any areas.

Most ships already reinstituted mask requirements, even for vaccinated travelers, in public areas.

Cruise line protocols 'have gotten stronger than CDC guidelines'

'The good news is that the CDC has looked at the responsible actions of the cruise industry and is reflecting those in their own policies to ensure the safe resumption of cruising,' an industry operations source told Seatrade Cruise News. 'In reality, [the cruise lines'] protocols have only gotten stronger than the CDC guidelines.'

New 'gray' designation

In other updates, CDC added a 'gray' designation in its color-coded system that applies ships not choosing to follow the conditional sailing order and language reflecting that as of July 23, the CSO and its accompanying measures are nonbinding recommendations for ships operating from Florida as a result of the state being granted a preliminary injunction limiting the agency's authority over how COVID-19 is managed on cruise ships.

As earlier reported, cruise lines with ships operating from Florida are continuing to voluntarily comply with the CSO, which remains a requirement in other states.

So far, the CDC lists no 'gray' ships, and the operations source predicted things would stay that way.

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