With so many test cruises and restarts from U.S. shores planned this summer, the best way to track the progress of your favorite cruise ships return to service is with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC has mandated that any ship expecting to operate within U.S. waters between now and November 1, 2021, when the organization's Framework for Conditional Sailing expires, must first complete a a series of steps in order to operate a test sailing.
Those steps include the cruise lines submitting a detailed COVID-19 response plan for that ship, with a signed affidavit acknowledging the completeness of said plan. The ship must also have no cases of COVID-19 or any COVID-like illness onboard the vessel for the past 28 days; and make sure that no crew members have come from any vessel with a COVID or COVID-like illness onboard. Finally the cruise line must quarantine any embarking crewmembers for 14 days prior to starting duties; and submit a signed attestation for commercial travel.
The first ship to do a successful test sailing was Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas in June from Miami, with Canival planning a number in June and July from Galveston.
Cruise operations from the United States resume on June 26, 2021 aboard Celebrity Edge.
The CDC tracks the progress of large cruise ships in U.S. waters with a handy color-coded chart.
You can view the chart, and see the status of your favorite ship on the CDC website.
A Green status means the ship has met all of the conditions outlined above and can commence crew transfers. Crew facilities like bars and gyms can re-open, and requirements for the crew to wear face masks can be removed, according to the CDC.
A Red status means the ship has not met one or more conditions. Crew travel is banned, and onboard facilities for crewmembers including in-person meetings, events and social gatherings must stop. Bars, gyms, and other group venues must close, and face masks must be worn.
A ship in Red Status that still has yet to operate its simulated test cruise must reschedule the cruise. This does not apply if the ship is colored red but has already been given its Conditional Sailing Certificate by the CDC.
Orange status is an intermediary provision, whereby operations can proceed with caution.
While a Green status is not the go-ahead restart full cruise operations, cruise lines must achieve and hold this status if they want to be allowed to get to the next phase in resuming cruises: test voyages.
The CDC currently has implemented far stricter guidelines and reporting requirements for cruise lines than for any other form of travel, including airlines, hotels, and land-based resorts.
Still, there is hope to be gleaned from the CDC's chart, which is updated every week.
Don't see your favorite ship on the chart? It may not be in U.S. waters at this time. Only ships carrying over 250 passengers that are planning to sail to, or from, the United States are required to complete this provisional step in order to eventually be granted permission to sail.