US authorities have cleared the way for cruise ships to resume sailing in American waters from Sunday (November 1) but have yet to confirm when paying passengers will be allowed onboard.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a ‘Framework for Conditional Sailing Order’ on Friday, which outlines a “phased approach for the safe and responsible resumption for passenger cruises”.

This will see cruise lines operate itineraries with no passengers onboard to demonstrate the effectiveness of Covid-19 prevention measures and compliance with CDC measures, a step outlined on Thursday by Royal Caribbean chief Richard Fain.

USA Today reported that the next phase could include mock sailings with volunteer guests, such as crew members or their families, akin to shakedown cruises ahead of new ships entering service.

The CDC said: “During the initial phases, cruise ship operators must demonstrate adherence to testing, quarantine and isolation, and social distancing requirements to protect crew members while they build the laboratory capacity needed to test crew and future passengers.”

The agency’s existing ‘No Sail Order’ had been due to expire on Saturday, after being extended for a month at the end of September.

However, reports in the US suggested that the CDC had initially planned to extend the order to February 15 next year, before intervention from the White House.

The CDC said the new order would apply until:

  • The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency,
  • The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations, or
  • November 1, 2021

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