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Major Ocean Cruise Lines Won't Sail Until September

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into the summer, the cruise ban has been extended until the fall, impacting large cruise ships based in the U.S.

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), a trade group for the largest ships and lines around the world, said on Friday it would be voluntarily extending the No Sail Order from U.S. ports as it works to implement new health and safety regulations across lines. The cruise ban, which applies to vessels with a capacity of 250 persons or more, was first announced by the Centers for Disease Control in March as U.S. cases of COVID-19 began to spike. The CDC had already extended the ban in early April and set it to expire on July 24. Now, with the latest extension, the ban will be in place until at least September 15.

“Although we are confident that future cruises will be healthy and safe, and will fully reflect the latest protective measures, we also feel that it is appropriate to err on the side of caution to help ensure the best interests of our passengers and crew members," CLIA said in a statement on Friday. "The additional time will also allow us to consult with the CDC on measures that will be appropriate for the eventual resumption of cruise operations."

Industry experts say that those new onboard measures will include pre-boarding health screenings, enhanced deep cleaning measures, virus prevention training for crew, and reduced passenger capacity, among others. Although larger vessels won't be sailing this summer, smaller ships that hold fewer than 250 people and operate river cruises within the U.S. are allowed to restart, and some lines are relaunching itineraries with new safety protocols as early as next month.

Since the outbreak took hold in the U.S., CLIA has partnered with multiple federal and state agencies to help limit the spread of the virus. Along with the CDC, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security has been working with the cruise industry on plans to limit transmission of the coronavirus at ports and aboard ships. Both the CDC and Coast Guard need to sign off on any final COVID-19 response plans for larger lines to reopen with new health and safety guidelines.

As the regulations stand now, cruise ships cannot disembark any passengers or crew at U.S. ports without approval from the Coast Guard and oversight from the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services, as well as coordination with other federal, state, and local authorities.

CLIA says that its member cruise lines will continue to evaluate whether an additional extension of the ban will be necessary.

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