Cruises in the United States could return by mid-July, according to a letter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared with the cruise industry.
The agency, "committed" to getting ships out by the summer, and will additionally waive the need for test sailings if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated. The simulated sailings were initially part of the CDC's 'Conditional Sail' Order, and the agency had said earlier this month they could likely begin soon.
The new guidelines are also in line with the CDC's recommendation that all crew and guests should be fully vaccinated before boarding, as well as the agency's guidance that fully-vaccinated Americans can travel with low risk to themselves.
In addition to vaccines, the CDC said it would update its testing and quarantine protocols to reflect its guidance for vaccinated people, USA Today reported.
For ships that do decide to go ahead with simulated sailings, the agency said it would respond to applications within five days.
"We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the CSO's phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities," Aimee Treffiletti, the head of the Maritime Unit for CDC's COVID-19 response within its Global Mitigation Task Force, wrote in the letter.
Whenever sailings do start, Americans appear ready to get on board. According to a survey from Cruise Critic, shared with Travel + Leisure, more than half of respondents said they would take a cruise this year. Of those, 39% said they would book a cruise this summer, while an additional 25% would book a cruise for the fall and/or winter. The survey was conducted from April 21 to 28.
While cruises in the U.S. have remained on pause, many cruise lines have made plans to homeport in cities around the world, and many are requiring proof of vaccination to board.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.
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