PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. - Passengers could be setting sail out on cruise ships out of Port Canaveral as early as mid-July that’s according to a letter the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent to ports and cruise lines early Thursday morning.
"This is the best news I've heard since March 13th last year when they shut everything down," Port Canaveral CEO, Captain John Murray told FOX 35 News.
The CDC updated the framework of the Conditional Sailing Order. These are the 5 key clarifications:
- Vaccinations: Ships may now bypass simulated voyages and move directly to open water sailing with passengers if a ship attests that 98 percent of its crew and 95 percent of its passengers are fully vaccinated.
- 60-Day Waiting Period: CDC announced that it would review and respond to applications for simulated voyages within 5 days, down from the anticipated 60 day waiting period. This puts cruise ships closer to open water sailing sooner.
- Testing: CDC will update its testing and quarantine requirements for passengers and crew to closely align with CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated persons. Fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to undergo NAAT testing, they may now take a simple viral test (NAA or antigen) upon embarkation. This testing change is for the restricted revenue sailings in Phase 4 of the CSO.
- Port Agreements: CDC clarified that cruise ship operators may enter into a multi-port agreement (as opposed to a single port agreement) provided that relevant port and local health authorities are signatories to the agreement. Such multi-port agreements may be particularly suitable if one port has limited medical or housing capacity and a nearby port is able to supplement these capacities.
- Quarantine Housing: CDC clarified guidance on ventilation systems and the ability for local passengers to quarantine at home if they are within driving distance.
Throughout the pandemic, there has been scuttle but about the CDC's "no sail order" being lifted, here and there, but Capt. Murray explains why he is truly optimistic this time.
"This new letter is common sense. If you've been vaccinated it creates a different level of requirement getting on and off the ship that more aligns with other CDC guidance dealing with staying in a hotel or getting on an airplane," Capt. Murray said.
Port Canaveral laid off a good portion of its workforce early in the pandemic. Little by little, it has been bringing their staff back. Capt. Murray said they will be ready for cruisers.
"I've been saying this since the very beginning. Port Canaveral is ready. All we need is a cruise ship and we're up and running," Captain Murray said.
Industry-wide, people are getting a boost from today’s news of passengers coming back and workers getting back to work by mid-summer.
"I have my fingers and toes crossed that it will be July Fourth," said Richard Ross, President of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) local chapter.
He said 98% of his members were laid off because of the pandemic and the "no sail order." Ross hopes on Independence Day that longshoremen will begin the process of loading provisions and dry goods onto cruises hips ramping up for mid-July departures.
While Ross knows it won’t be all of his members at once, he says this will be a step in the right direction.
"I had a conversation with one of our cruise partners and it has been alluded to it’s going to be a slow pace, but in time we should get back to full capacity of our workforce being dispatched for cruising," Ross said.
He tells FOX 35 News that their cruising partners will give him 30-day notice of when they want ILA members to report to work.
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