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Cruise ship in Miami (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Returning Cruise Ship Passengers in U.S. Barred from Flying Commercial Domestic Airlines

Returning Cruise Ship Passengers in U.S. Barred from Flying Commercial Domestic Airlines
Cruise ship in Miami (Photo: Cruise Critic)

April 07, 2020

Dori Saltzman
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(Updated, 12:57 p.m. EDT) -- The Centers for Disease Control have issued new guidelines for cruise ship passengers and crew returning to the United States on cruise ships with suspected cases of Covid-19 onboard. Starting this past weekend and until further notice, cruise lines must get all travelers (passengers and crew) directly off the cruise ships and to their homes via chartered or private transportation. The use of domestic commercial flights and public transport is not permitted.

The guidelines also apply to U.S. passengers returning to the United States from cruise ships with suspected cases of Covid-19 that have docked overseas.

This guidance applies to all people, including those who are not sick. Travelers needing urgent medical attention must be transported by EMS (arranged by the cruise line) to the local, receiving hospital. Travelers with mild symptoms may return home alone or with other symptomatic travelers via chartered or private transportation, but only asymptomatic cabin mates may accompany ill travelers, and only if they provide written consent to the cruise line ahead of time.

On a case-by-case basis, the guidelines may not apply to foreign travelers requiring international air, beyond needing private or chartered transport to the airport.

Additionally, cruise lines must provide all passengers and crew a procedural/surgical mask, cloth face covering or non-medical mask to wear during ship disembarkation, transport to any flights, the duration of the flight(s) and any ground transportation until they reach their final destination.

According to the CDC's announcement of the new guidelines, the restrictions are part of "aggressive efforts" that required to contain the spread of Covid-19, particularly from cruise ships, which "pose a risk for rapid spread of disease beyond the voyage."

All U.S. residents are further ordered by the CDC to quarantine at home for 14 days after disembarking.

Cruise lines must agree to the guidelines in order to be permitted to dock in the United States, and only at designated ports.

These guidelines went into effect with the arrival of Coral Princess into Miami this past weekend, catching the line off guard and requiring some scrambling to comply.

"Princess Cruises continues to work tirelessly to adjust the repatriation plan to meet the new CDC requirements," the line said in a prepared statement. "This will unfortunately result in further delays in disembarkation and onward travel for many guests as we work through this complex, challenging, and unfortunate situation."

As for how long these requirements will stay in place, that is still uncertain. According to its website, the CDC says it will "continue to evaluate and update our recommendations for returning cruise ship travelers as the situation evolves."

Additionally, a spokesperson for the CDC told Cruise Critic, it is "safe to assume they will be in place as long as there is a pandemic."

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) responded to the new guidelines: "CLIA cruise lines remain singularly focused on the health and safe return of those onboard the few CLIA member ships that remain at sea on their way to port. As of April 6, 2020 this includes only seven ships -- only one that is U.S. bound," the Association said in a prepared statement.

"Health and safety has always been our absolute priority, and is especially so now during this unprecedented time. To that end, our members are working around the clock, under the guidance and direction of the CDC, the U.S. Coast Guard and others at the state and federal level, to overcome logistical challenges and do right by all, and we will continue to do so as we disembark the last remaining passengers and enter the next phase of the cruise industry’s voluntary suspension of worldwide operations. In the meantime, we encourage ports around the world to allow access and safe harbor for cruise ships as needed to support the completion of their journeys and in anticipation of the return to normal operations when appropriate."

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