(Updated 5 p.m. EDT) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended its Conditional Sail Order (CSO) into January of 2022, citing the interests of public health as the COVID-19 health pandemic continues.
The extension, which will take effect November 1, 2021 upon the scheduled expiration of the initial CSO, will be in effect until the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over; the CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order; or until January 15, 2022 at 12:01 a.m. EDT.
The CSO was introduced one year ago as a replacement for the original "No Sail Order" that was implemented by the CDC in March 2020. Both orders halted the cruise industry's operations within the United States in response to the global health pandemic, and continued to frustrate stakeholders on land and sea well into this spring.
The CDC allowed cruise operations to resume in the United States in June 2021, just as lines made plans to sail from non-U.S. homeports. Cruising has since restarted in numerous U.S. homeports, including Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, Los Angeles, Seattle and New York, among others.
In a statement issued by the Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA), the agency said it was committed to working with the CDC.
"Cruising has successfully resumed in the United States, with leading public health measures that have enabled our ocean-going cruise line members to effectively mitigate the risk of COVID-19 amongst cruise passengers, crewmembers and destinations," noted a statement from CLIA provided to Cruise Critic. "The changes to the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), announced today, show that the Biden Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognize the cruise industry’s successful resumption of operations.
"We look forward to demonstrating the industry’s continued leadership in this final phase of the CSO, and to carrying out a smooth transition when the Order comes to an end on 15 January 2022."
Longer Voyages Now Allowed, Restrictions Slowly Eased on Cruise Operators
Unlike previous iterations of the Conditional Sail Order, this extension shouldn't have much impact on cruisers. Many cruise lines had already begun extending their health and safety protocols into 2022 prior to this announcement, and cruises are still allowed to operate in U.S. waters, provided they continue to adhere to the terms of the CSO.
Aside from the extension, no new measures or requirements are being introduced in this iteration of the CSO that have not previously been announced. Several segments have in fact been amended by the CDC to reduce the regulatory burden on cruise lines, while even the definition of vessels affected has been smoothed over to allow for operation of Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America in Hawaii, and domestic U.S. river cruise operators, some of which sail larger vessels that, despite being U.S.-flagged, were initially tied up in red tape due to their larger passenger capacity.
Additional requirements being removed include he provision that voyages from a U.S. homeport can only be one week in length, and the requirement for ships to cancel all future sailings should an instance of COVID-19 be detected onboard. Cruise lines are now no longer required to warn passengers about COVID-19 in their marketing materials and online websites.
Under current CDC regulations, passengers sailing on ships from or to U.S. homeports must produce negative COVID-19 tests prior to embarkation, and must adhere to masking and physical distancing rules while onboard and in select areas ashore.
Nearly all cruise operators have elected to mandate that all eligible adults provide proof of vaccination against the COVID-19 virus.
The cruise industry's health and safety measures continue to outpace those of the broader travel industry. Passengers on domestic flights in the U.S. are still allowed to board without any testing or proof of vaccination, and many hotels and resorts merely request unvaccinated patrons mask up, depending on the state the hotel resides in.
The Conditional Sail Order was originally set to expire on November 1, 2021.
Earlier this year, Transport Canada tied its guidance on cruise to the U.S. CDC, stating it would remove its own ban on cruise ships come November 1, 2021. It remains to be seen if Canada will now continue to ban cruise ships in its territorial waters into next year, a move which saw all Alaskan cruise traffic shift to Seattle this year for the first time in history.
Cruise Critic has reached out to the CDC and Transport Canada for comment.