Cruise Ships Can Sail Again, With Strict Rules. Here’s What to Know.

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Cruise companies must follow stringent health and safety protocols to be allowed to resume passenger excursions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday lifted its “no sail” order on U.S. cruise ships and set out a framework for how cruising could restart.

Under the new structure, cruise companies must demonstrate adherence to stringent health and safety protocols including extensive testing, quarantine measures and social distancing. If they meet these C.D.C. standards, first on a series of crew-only test sailings, they will eventually be allowed to resume passenger excursions.

The “no sail” order was originally issued on March 14 for all American cruises after it emerged that cruise ships played a major role in the initial outbreak of the coronavirus. The ships were remarkably efficient at spreading the virus: On board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan in February, each case of Covid-19 was transmitted to approximately 15 other people. In Wuhan, China — the original epicenter of the virus — one person transmitted the disease to about four other people, a recent study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine found.

In September, the C.D.C. recommended an extension to the policy until February amid reports of outbreaks on ships in other countries, but that advice was overruled by a White House coronavirus task force.

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The restrictions on sailings have ravaged the cruise industry with companies reporting billions of dollars in losses as their fleets have remained idled in open waters or in ports. In recent months, cruise executives have been scrambling to put together teams of scientists and health experts to devise comprehensive safety protocols that will allow cruising to return, and they gave a lengthy list of suggestions to the C.D.C.

On Friday, the C.D.C. said the benefits of the new framework outweigh the costs of not allowing cruise ships to sail, providing flexibility for companies that have taken necessary precautions to mitigate risk, while continuing to prohibit operations for those that fail to implement the necessary measures.

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