Before the industry's return after the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the health authorities established criteria for the first trials with volunteers.
After more than a year with the industry paralyzed, last week the CDC (Centers for Disease Control, for its acronym in English) gave the green light from July for the return of passenger cruises in the United States, with the condition that more than 90 percent of the travelers and those who work on the ship are vaccinated against COVID-19 (98 percent of the workers and 95 percent of the passengers).
But if any of the ships fail to meet that goal, the CDC grants them the ability to make test trips with volunteers beforehand.
Such voyages must have at least 10 percent of the cruise capacity occupied with people voluntarily boarding as passengers. They must be over 18 years of age, not vaccinated, and willing to be tested for COVID 19 before, during, and after the trip. In turn, they must officially declare that they do not belong to one of the groups most at risk from the coronavirus and accept that the results of their tests are shared with federal authorities.
Companies must end the test trip immediately if at some point 1.5 percent of passengers are found to have contracted the virus or 1 percent of workers are infected.
Regardless of whether it is a trip with vaccinated people or one of the test trips, cruises must follow the recommendations of the CDC regarding the use of masks and social distance. To get on the boat, and at the end of the trip, all tourists must be tested for COVID-19. If they are vaccinated, they will be able to take a rapid test; if they were not inoculated, they would have to present PCR results.
Once cruise activity in the United States is reestablished, which is expected for mid-July, ships will be able to make stops at ports in the country and in other countries, complying with sanitary protocols. This contrasts with the norm established in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, where cruises are allowed but are trips to nowhere since they cannot make stops at any port.
However, one of the big changes imposed on the industry by the authorities in the United States is that now passengers will not be allowed to explore destinations on their own. Whoever gets on a cruise ship will know in advance that they will be able to get off at the ports and take one of the excursions controlled by the cruise there. In this way, an attempt is made to minimize the risk of contagion by interacting less with locals, and it will be controlled that the excursions comply with health protocols.
Cruise companies can start trial trips immediately, if they wish, and will be able to return to work in July. It will depend on each them how quickly they can meet the new requirements to see when they will be operating again.
For states like Florida, it is vitally important that this industry be reestablished. Miami is the main cruise port globally, and this industry is the main employer in the city of the sun.