After almost a month since its restrictions Conditional Sailing Order expired, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has released an operations manual for its “COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters.”
The CDC acknowledges that its order expired on January 15, 2022, and it recommends that cruise ships operating in American waters participate.
The 20+ page document–which can be viewed here–covers a variety of operations such as preventative measures, protocols and standards for screening and testing, and even allowance for outright CDC surveillance of ship, crew, and passengers.
Cruise lines such as Disney Cruise Line will have until February 18 to join or opt-out, and all would-be Guests should know that all immediate protocols that concern them and their adventure will be posted on the Disney Cruise Line website.
It should be noted that Disney Cruise Line already meets several of the operational standards outlined in the CDC’s manual, like proper screening and testing and onboard health and safety protocols.
However, unlike Disney Cruise Line’s current guidelines, the CDC’s manual does provide operational standards to allow for passengers who are not vaccinated or do not qualify for what is currently recognized as being “fully vaccinated.”
New CDC Guidelines Allow for Unvaccinated Passengers
While Disney Cruise Line currently bars “vaccine-eligible” passengers who are not fully vaccinated from boarding, it appears that the CDC does leave room for those who are not fully vaccinated to go sailing once again, regardless of reason.
According to the manual, “Passengers who are not fully vaccinated must present a negative COVID-19 NAAT test result at the time of embarkation. The specimen must be taken no more than 3 days before boarding.”
The CDC also recommends that a NAAT or antigen test be administered on embarkation day, as well as on debarkation day, and when completing back-to-back sailings.
CDC operations will also recognize passengers’ documentation of recovery which is defined as the following:
Paper or electronic copies of their previous positive viral test result (dated no more than 90 days ago), and
A signed letter, on official letterhead that contains the name, address, and phone number of a licensed healthcare provider or public health official, stating that the traveler has been cleared to end isolation. The letter does not have to specifically mention travel.
Disney Cruise Line began offering debarkation tests for its passengers last month. However, it is optional at this time.
Read More: Disney Cruise Line Update: Debarkation COVID-19 Testing Now Available at Disney Cruise Terminals
Now, the CDC does still offer what can be seen as preferential treatment to those recognized as “fully vaccinated.” Fully-vaccinated passengers are allowed to used select at-home tests for their pre-embarkation testing so long as it is no more than 2 days old. Passengers who are “fully vaccinated” and who are either showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or have known close contact exposure within the 10 days of boarding have a chance at boarding whereas someone who isn’t “fully vaccinated” needs to be turned away automatically.
“Fully vaccinated” passengers also get different treatment when it comes to on-board mask mandates.
CDC Renews On-Board Mask Protocol
Those cruise lines looking to opt into the CDC’s Program will have to abide by the CDC’s original order:
While the Order permits temporarily removing a mask for brief periods of time while eating or drinking, removal of the mask for extended meal service or beverage consumption would constitute a violation of this Order.
Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise all passengers and crew that they do not have to wear a well-fitting mask if outdoors. CDC still recommends that people wear a mask if they are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines and in crowded outdoor areas.
Masks do not have to be worn while inside one’s own cabin.
Travelers should not wear a mask when doing activities that may get the mask wet, like swimming at the beach or in recreational water facilities. A wet mask can make it difficult to breathe and may not work as well when wet. This means it is particularly important for bathers who are not fully vaccinated to maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet (2 meters) when in the water with others who are not traveling companions or part of the same family.
But the CDC is willing to make exceptions for Cruise operators based on their vaccination score. Cruise ships that meet the CDC “Vaccination Standard of Excellence”–which means that 95% of all crew and 95% of all passengers are “fully vaccinated”– and opt into the CDC’s program, “at their discretion, may advise passengers and crew that they do not have to wear a mask in any areas.”
And while the CDC is suggesting cruise ships do otherwise at this point due to the surge of the omicron variant, its manual states that,
Cruise ship operators choosing to opt into CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, at their discretion, may designate areas as only accessible to passengers and crew who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines where masks are not required (e.g., casinos; bars; spas; entertainment venues; and dining areas, including self-serve buffets).
For Cruise Lines participating in the CDC’s program, there is a Status Classification in terms of vaccination:
- Not Highly Vaccinated. The designation for ships with less than 95% passengers and 95% crew who are fully vaccinated.
- Highly Vaccinated. The designation for ships with at least 95% passengers and 95% crew who are fully vaccinated, but with less than 95% of passengers and 95% of the crew who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.
- Vaccination Standard of Excellence. The designation of ships with at least 95% passengers and 95% crew who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.
It should be noted at this time that the CDC’s Color Status only refers to the number of cases reported on a cruise ship, regardless of its vaccination status. Ships of any operators who do not wish to opt in to this program will be given a Gray status, meaning simply it is operating out of CDC supervision.
Will Disney Cruises Opt Into the CDC’s Program for Cruise Ships?
While Disney Cruise Line has not made any statement at this time (February 10), there is little doubt that it will join the CDC’s new COVID-19 Program. The company totes on its website that it is operating under the guidance of the CDC, and by refusing to service all unvaccinated Guests eligible for vaccination it is working to ensure that its ships the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy all achieve the CDC status of “Vaccination Standard of Excellence.”
We at Disney Fanatic will keep our ears to the ground and update our readers as more Disney Cruise Line information comes to light.
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