The Return of Cruising After COVID-19

2020 has been a very difficult year for both the cruising industry and the eager travelers awaiting the return of their favorite mode of transportation.

However, within the past month, the cruise line community has received long-awaited news of methods outlining the protocols for the return to service, courtesy of the CDC.

This article will show the progress accomplished the past month in regards to the steps taken to get the cruises back on the sea

return of cruising

CDC Guidance

If we have learned anything about this pandemic, we have learned that cruising the last thing on the United States’ government’s mind.

On April 9th, 2020, the United States CDC released an extended “no-sail” order, deeming all cruise ships leaving or visiting the United States unsafe to sail. This order continued to be extended until October 31st. However, the order was lifted on October 30th and a new set of guidelines was announced.

This guidance is outlined in a 40-page document where the numerous steps that cruise lines must follow in order to sail are defined.

While this PDF document goes into depth on the new regulations for the cruise lines, I have outlined the main steps below.

  1. Testing and Additional Safeguards for Crew Members

  2. Simulated Voyaged to Test Individual Cruise Ships Capabilities to Mitigate the Risk of COVID-19

  3. Certificates for Ships that Meet Specific Requirements

  4. Phased Return of Paying Cruise Ship Passengers

These steps may seem like a fairly simple request at first, however, the logistics and specific requirements placed on these ships during a time of financial turmoil for the cruise line companies has proven difficult. If cruise lines are unable to meet these requirements, this guidance is set to expire on November 1st, 2021.

return of cruising

Arrival of Crew

Over the past few months, we have observed the arrival of cruise ship crew members to the United States.

With the anticipated CDC guidance, cruise lines made sure to be ready to sail when and if the no-sail order was lifted.

Ships have been seen bringing in crew in order to make sure these ships are ready to sail as soon as possible during the simulated voyages. The various protocols outlined in the CDC order were highly anticipated fairly accurately by the cruise lines, therefore, they began to bring in their crew before the no-sail order was lifted.

return of cruising

Simulated Voyages Cruising

Since the outline of CDC guidance was released cruisers from around the world have been looking to the cruise line companies in order to volunteer for the simulated voyage requirement.

While at first, you may wonder if the cruise lines just use their employees. However, the CDC was clear in their outline stating that volunteers must be that, a volunteer. Thus, these individuals must not be required through a “condition of employment or in exchange for consideration or future reward”. In addition, these volunteers must be 18 years old and have no pre-existing health conditions.

When this CDC guidance was announced, cruise enthusiasts speculated that both the cruise line employee’s families and travel agents would be asked to volunteer on these first cruises.

Frantic to get involved in these seemingly free cruises, optimistic volunteers from across the globe began to email the cruise lines. I happened to also email these cruise lines, and most of the cruise lines responded along the lines of “we are happy to hear how eager you are to return to the seas. We are doing the best we can to get back to service” followed by either “we will let you know when we know our plan”, “we will post updates on our website or social media”, or “thank you for volunteering, we will be reaching out to you”.

Since reaching out in early November, I have heard nothing back since those initial emails, however, one cruise line company has released information about the simulated voyages.

Royal Caribbean has announced its “Volunteer of the Seas” program which allows people to fill out an online form in order to be considered for their simulated voyages. Since then, over 200,000 people have volunteered. From what I can tell, no one has been contacted yet to volunteer, however, to keep up with this information you can join their Facebook group here.


Hopefully, within the next few months, we will receive further clarity in regards to the return of the cruising industry.

Both the cruising industry and our wanderlust depend on these four simple yet difficult steps outlined in the CDC cruising guidance.

Let me know your thoughts on what will happen with cruising in the coming months in the comments below — and as always, happy traveling!

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