Cruise lines that have been docked for more than a year because of the pandemic have been given a route to returning to sea. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified them Wednesday in a letter that they should be able to resume passenger sailings from the US by the middle of July, the Wall Street Journal reports. "We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity," a CDC official wrote, adding that the phased approach outlined in the agency's conditional-sailing order will limit the risk of spreading in the coronavirus on ships in in their port communities. The industry has lobbied to be allowed to sail again for months, and the CDC said it's been meeting with industry representatives twice a week for the past month to resolve the impasse. Florida also sued the CDC over the issue.
The announcement pleased Richard Fain, chief executive of Royal Caribbean, per CNBC. "It really does set forth a pathway that we think is achievable, practical and safe," he said. The CDC said earlier that the lines would have to run a test cruise to demonstrate their COVID-19 protocols. That step can be skipped, the agency now says, if 95% of a ship's passengers and 98% of its crew have been fully vaccinated. "Eighty percent of our guests already say they intend to get the vaccines regardless," Faid said. The CDC's change "puts cruise ships closer to open-water sailing sooner," said the agency. Other nations already are allowing cruises, but they were suspended in the US in March 2020. About 15% of crew members are from India; Royal Caribbean said it's not hiring anyone from that nation during its COVID-19 crisis. (Read more cruise lines stories.)