The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recently entered a new order extending a no-sail restriction for cruise ships for what could be up to 100 days. The cruise industry is especially impacted by COVID-19 because of its nature. The virus lies dormant, often for days, but people can transmit the virus during this dormancy. With hundreds or thousands of people in close quarters on a ship, the virus can spread rapidly, contaminating many before anyone shows symptoms. For example, on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, 712 people were infected, yet 46.5% showed no symptoms at all when they were tested. Because of these unique circumstances, cruise lines and governments have faced difficult moral and legal decisions, including quarantine procedures.
Although cruise lines have suspended sailings for the time being, there were still some ships at sea over the past several weeks which were not allowed to dock in various ports and countries after the worldwide pandemic spread. Here in South Florida, for example, special dispensation and arrangements had to be made to allow two Holland America Line ships and one Princess ship to dock and discharge guests and ill crew.
The CDC order states that cruise ships cannot return to their sailing schedules until either:
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declares that COVID-19 no longer constitutes a public health emergency,
- The CDC director decides to modify or rescind its no-sail decision, or
- 100 days passes from the time the new order is published in the Federal Register.
So, for now, dozens of cruise ships must remain in port or at anchor, only moving to discharge waste at sea and to keep the ships functioning. It has been reported that close to 80,000 crew members are still aboard. However, most of the crew aboard these ships are simply stuck in limbo without work or pay. To keep the ships running, cruise ships are only operating with skeleton crews large enough to meet minimum manning standards. Until they are able to be returned home, the remaining crew are stuck on board.
In addition to the tens of thousands of crew members, the Miami Herald has reported that more than 6,000 passengers across seven cruise ships are still waiting at sea to dock with just three of those ships planning to dock within the month. The CDC has given the cruise industry until April 16 to come up with a new plan for the final passengers stuck at sea to get back on land safely.
For now, the cruise industry is being severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, things will get back to normal this year. For updates on the cruise industry and other COVID-19 related news, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center daily.