CDC Extends ‘No Sail Order’ Indefinitely For All Cruise Ships — Here's What You Need to Know
According to the CDC, there are approximately 100 cruise ships still at sea off the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast of the U.S.
Cruise-lovers should prepare to spend a little more time ashore, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday that they would be extending their No Sail Order indefinitely for all cruise ships amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The new order states that cruise lines will not be allowed to disembark passengers at any U.S. port of call without direction from the U.S. Coast Guard, in consultation with the CDC, HHS and other government bodies.
Despite the earlier No Sail Order and the Cruise Lines International Association’s decision to suspend all cruise ship operations on March 13, the CDC says that there are approximately 100 cruise ships still at sea off the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast of the U.S., with nearly 80,000 crew members on board
At least 10 ships have reported that they have passengers and/or crew on board who have tested positive for coronavirus or have exhibited symptoms in the past few weeks.
The updated mandate follows the CDC’s first No Sail Order, which was issued on March 14 and was intended to stay in place for 30 days.
The current order will impact cruise lines indefinitely, indicating that no cruise ships will be allowed in or out of the U.S. until one of three things happens: 1) The Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that the coronavirus is a public health emergency expires, 2) The CDC director rescinds or modifies the order in accordance with public health considerations, or 3) 100 days have passed since the date of the order’s publication in the Federal Register.
CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a press release that the agency is “working with the cruise line industry to address the health and safety of crew at sea as well as communities surrounding U.S. cruise ship points of entry.”
He added, “The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect Americans, and we will continue to provide critical public health guidance to the industry to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on its workforce throughout the remainder of this pandemic.”
Since the beginning of the global spread of COVID-19, several cruise ships have seen severe — and deadly — outbreaks of the virus.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined off Yokohama, Japan, for weeks in February with sick passengers on board. A total of 621 people eventually tested positive. According to Reuters, seven former passengers have now died. Some of the infected passengers from that ship have since become among the first to take part in a coronavirus drug trial.
A second ship, the Grand Princess, was quarantined off San Francisco after 21 people on board tested positive for the illness in March. That ship eventually docked in the port of Oakland and those on board quarantined on land.
More recently, Holland America reported 4 dead and 233 ill on two of its ships heading for Ft. Lauderdale as of March 27, after being turned away from ports in South America.
On April 3, one person died on a Celebrity Cruise ship and two people were air lifted off a Royal Caribbean ship, both near Florida.
“Cruise ships are incubators,” according to infectious disease expert Dr. William Haseltine. “Everybody’s close together, packed in all the time. One person gets sick, a lot of them get sick. It’s a very unfavorable environment for disease transmission.”
Have a cruise planned this season and want to get your money back?
While it varies by cruise line, many companies are now offering two refund options for those who have a cruise booked during the suspension: a 100 percent cash refund, or the option to put the value paid towards a future cruise, with added incentives in the form of on-board credits.
Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, is giving passengers up to 150 percent of the original cost of their trip in future cruise credits. Carnival Cruise Line is offering 100 percent of the original payment plus up to $600 in future cruise credit for those who don’t cancel.
For those who simply want their money back asap, check the newest cancellation policy in place on the cruise line’s website — many have been updating policies frequently amid the pandemic to make them more flexible.
For canceled sailings, most companies currently have a refund request form handy on their website.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.