The good news for cruise fans is that if you would like to sail through the Caribbean this summer, you have some options. Whether you can start your voyage in Florida is another story, however.
As you mentioned, the cruise industry is still waiting for permission from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to resume operations from U.S. ports since the no-sail order was issued on March 14, 2020.
Cruise lines, and other invested parties, aren’t sitting by idly. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) has joined Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in suing the federal government and the CDC to allow cruising again.
According to David Crooks, senior vice president of product and operations for World Travel Holdings, a major U.S. cruise agency and travel company, that legal action has helped bring awareness to the issue, and could help push the CDC to act soon.
Brian Salerno, senior vice president for maritime policy at the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), says there is potential for your August plans.
“Our goal is to have cruising resume this summer from U.S. ports,” Salerno says. “We’re in active discussions with the CDC to look at what can be done to make cruising possible.”
However, if the last year has taught us anything, the situation could change despite industry optimism.
While the CDC has said it is safe for fully vaccinated people to travel, it is still not recommending people do so while coronavirus cases remain high and variants continue to be a threat. With that in mind, know that your cruise plan won’t be foolproof even if the CDC lifts its conditional sailing order.
“Cruising is continuously in a state of flux,” says Colleen McDaniel, editor in chief of Cruise Critic. “The story changes from one day to the next — it’s really based on what’s happening with the pandemic.”
Should the CDC continue to ban U.S. cruising, you have other options to take a Caribbean cruise vacation this summer, but you would have to go abroad to start. Major cruise lines have positioned ships to operate from Caribbean ports, as well as other international places such as Europe, where sailing is currently allowed.
No matter where you’re embarking from, there will be new layers of coronavirus precautions at play throughout your trip. You will probably have to provide a negative coronavirus test before you board, and you may be required to be vaccinated depending on the cruise line.
“There’s going to be requirements for public health and sanitation that are very different from when people remember cruising before the pandemic,” Salerno says. “All of the types of precautions that people are used to taking on shore, such as masks and social distancing and so forth, you’ll see that reflected on board ships.”
Karen Edwards, professor and chair of the department of epidemiology at University of California at Irvine, says following those precautions is recommended for vaccinated and unvaccinated cruise travelers alike, though Edwards does not recommend someone take a cruise unless they have been fully immunized.
“I would certainly keep up the good hygiene habits of hand washing, and I would wear my mask,” Edwards says. “I would just act as if I weren’t vaccinated, but at least feel a little more confident I’m protected against covid.”
McDaniel says those interested in cruises should invest in travel insurance that covers pandemic concerns and book a voyage that allows passengers to cancel or reschedule without penalty. She also encourages people to enlist the help of a travel adviser to help navigate new complications, including the inbound testing requirement to return to the United States if you’re traveling abroad.
If you’re looking to sail this summer, or later in 2021, you may want to book as soon as possible. With many ships operating at a reduced capacity, and fewer ships currently cruising, supply may not support the record-breaking demand the industry is already seeing.
According to Cruise Critic research, cruise bookings went up 118 percent in March compared with February this year. Ellen Bettridge, chief executive of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, says the company has opened 2023 early to accommodate the recent surge in interest.
“If you want to go somewhere, you should be making that decision now,” Bettridge says.
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