The future of the cruise industry rests with the CDC at the moment. For months, cruise lines were struggling to adhere to the recommendations given by the CDC in their Conditional Sailing Order (CSO). The CDC has since made the CSO easier to follow, but there are still some pretty strict rules about how cruise lines need to handle safety regulations going forward. Recent statements from the CDC, however, seem to indicate that the summer cruise season may be a bit more lax than most were anticipating.
Will masks be necessary?
With the recent announcement from the CDC that face masks may not be necessary for those who have been vaccinated, it seemed like a clear continuation that face masks would not be required on cruises. Most cruise lines have already announced that they will require guests to be vaccinated this summer. The CDC took a bit to make this regulation apply specifically to cruises, but they announced on May 12th that they would allow cruise lines to lighten up on the rules regarding face masks. Specifically, they said that cruise lines could decide whether or not to force guests to wear masks when outside. They did not get rid of their requirement for all cruise travelers to wear masks when indoors, however.
Shore excursions are back
The CDC also loosened up their restrictions around shore excursions on May 12th. They had originally said that shore excursions would not be happening this summer, but they will now allow fully vaccinated travelers to explore ports that their ships stop at. The CDC did additionally note that travelers would need to wear masks if they went inside while at on a shore excursion. Of course, the restrictions in place during shore excursions will depend on what country is being visited, as they will ultimately have the final say as to what tourists will be allowed to do.
Further updates to the CSO
On May 15th, just a few days after they relaxed their rules on shore excursions and masks, the CDC revealed new details of the CSO. You can read through all the new changes here, but the overall message of the new sections is an optimistic one. Without getting too far into the details, we can say that the Conditional Sailing Order is now far less strict in light of widespread vaccinations. This is definitely a good thing, and it will allow cruise lines to operate more normally this summer.
Progress is still slow, but we are getting closer and closer to a legitimate restart of the American cruise industry. There are now plenty of reasons to have hope for the summer season.