The CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) has expired. This is a big deal for the cruise industry. The CSO was a roadblock for many cruise lines through much of the pandemic. It originally required companies to perform test voyages so that their health protocols could be observed and critiqued by the CDC. This requirement was eventually softened as long as cruise lines adopted stringent vaccine mandates. Most major companies did this and were allowed to sail again.
But as of January 15th, 2022, the CSO has ended. So what now? Are there still rules in place from the CDC? Can the cruise industry just “go back to normal?” Should we expect the CSO to return in some form?
Those are the questions that are arising now that there is no active order from the CDC. This is one of the first times since the beginning of the pandemic that there hasn’t been some sort of order from the CDC to the cruise industry. And as of right now, there are few governmental restrictions that the industry needs to worry about. The CDC’s website still notes that there is an active mask requirement on ships, however. You can read about those rules here.
As for whether or not the CDC will return with a new order relating to safety on cruises, we can only guess. There don’t appear to be public plans for something like that in the near future, though. While it stands to reason that a new variant could upend business once again, it seems like the CDC is moving towards a “suggestive” manner of managing the cruise industry. Rather than giving specific requirements, they are offering their previous rules as suggestions that the industry should follow. This allows a much greater level of flexibility for cruise lines.
One relic of the CDC’s previous cruise customs is still active, though: their cruise color status. They use colors to track the activity of COVID-19 on a cruise ship. You can view the denotations of different ships here.
In light of the expiration of the CSO, many cruise lines are feeling very optimistic about the future. The CEO of Royal Caribbean group spoke of the situation, saying that they will “continue to engage with the CDC and other public health agencies as [they] look to adjust [their] COVID-19 risk mitigation measures in response to the changing nature of the virus.” The CEO of Royal Caribbean International added his own thoughts: “We’ll start removing many of the protocols that exist today, and it will become easier and simpler for our customers.”
This is definitely great news for cruise companies and travelers alike. We’ll just have to wait and see if this upwards trend continues.