TAMPA, Fla — The cruise industry received detailed instructions on Wednesday for how to conduct test cruises – a key step in restarting voyages from U.S. ports.
The simulated voyages are part of the framework the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created for cruises to resume operations across the country.
If 98 percent of a ship's crew is not fully vaccinated, then it would be required to conduct one of these test cruises with volunteer passengers. A ship can only carry 10 percent of the total passenger capacity allowed by the ports it's visiting. Those passengers must be 18 years or older and agree to COVID-19 testing prior to participating.
A volunteer who hasn't been vaccinated must confirm they are not at risk of spreading the virus. The test cruise would be canceled if 1.5 percent of COVID cases are detected among passengers, or if 1 percent of the crew has contracted the virus.
The CDC has kept a no sail order in place for over a year. Florida ports and terminals have been empty and shutdown since last March.
"It's just been a long process of like, hoping for it to come back because that was my livelihood. For the past five years, we've been working on ships," Alyson Larkin, a Singer on Carnival Cruises said.
While it's up to the cruise lines what vaccine and COVID-19 protocols they'll have onboard, Alyson is hopeful the guidelines will get them back on the water this summer.
"I think that's a glimmer of hope that we all need. Little by little, the more everybody can kind of like, pitch in with safety, I think the sooner we'll be back. It's hard knowing that there's still no guarantee that I'll be working, but at least you know, if I'm not one of the ones to go back right away, at least somebody is and we're still moving forward," Larkin said.
In April, the CDC released new guidance that would allow cruise ships to sail as early as July, so long as they could prove that 98 percent of their crew and 95 percent of passengers were vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to research from the Cruise Lines International Association, 85 percent of passengers say they've already started the vaccination process or are planning on getting vaccinated. Another 10 percent say they would get vaccinated just to get on a cruise even if they didn't intend to.
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