Major cruise lines say they will test all passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to boarding as part of their plan for resuming sailing in the Americas.
The Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group that represents 95% of global ocean-going cruise capacity, said Monday that its members will also require passengers and crew to wear masks while onboard whenever physical distancing can't be maintained.
No date has been set for the resumption of cruising in the Americas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a no-sail order for U.S. waters through Sept. 30. The association's safety plan will now go to the CDC, which will consider it as the agency decides whether to lift the no-sail order. The order has been extended twice since March.
The cruise association has issued a voluntary suspension of cruises through Oct. 31. In a conference call Monday, Arnold Donald, the president and CEO of Carnival Corp., said once the CDC lifts its order, it will probably take cruise lines at least a month to prepare their ships and train crew before they can sail.
The safety plan requires testing of passengers and crew, but doesn't specify the types of coronavirus tests that companies must use, CLIA Chairman Adam Goldstein said. It also doesn't make clear that test results must be known before the ship sails.
The plan permits limited shore excursions and requires passengers to wear masks and stay apart from other people during those excursions. Passengers who don't comply won't be allowed to reboard.
The plan also requires ships to increase the amount of fresh air in their ventilation systems and use advanced filtration methods where feasible.
Cruise company executives said the limited resumption of cruising in Europe over the last few weeks has convinced them that cruising can be done safely.
The safety agreement is an unusual one in the fiercely competitive industry, which has been seriously shaken by the coronavirus. Hundreds of people fell ill aboard crowded cruises earlier this year before the no-sail order went into effect. Since then, the industry has furloughed thousands of workers.
"We all share the same goal, and we're going to get there through collaboration, not competition," said Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Cruise's chairman and CEO.