Could the CDC “No Sail Order” Be Lifted (Or Extended) This Thursday?

If you’re one of the many people eager to see cruises come back, then it would be a good idea to mark your calendar for Thursday, September 24.

Should history prove to be a guide, that could be the day that the Centers for Disease Control makes its next update on the “No Sail Order” that’s currently in place.

The current order restricts cruise ships from sailing from the United States if they carry more than 250 people. Here’s the specific language used on the order regarding which ships are impacted:

All commercial, non-cargo, passenger-carrying vessels with the capacity to carry 250 or more individuals (passengers and crew) and with an itinerary anticipating an overnight stay onboard or a twenty-four (24) hour stay onboard for either passengers or crew that are operating in international, interstate, or intrastate waterways, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.

-CDC No Sail Order (NSO)

This order was originally put in place on March 14, 2020.

Since then, extensions have been announced twice — on April 9 and on July 16. So far, cruise ships have been halted for roughly six months, and the current order is set to expire on September 30. But could a new order be coming down this week?

Cruzely has followed the past orders closely and noticed a pattern in announcements.

Specifically, for the past two extensions, updates were announced on Thursdays the week before the end of the order. That would point to this upcoming Thursday — September 24 — as a possible date of the next announcement. This is no guarantee a new announcement will be made this week, but it seems to point to action soon.

The CDC’s first order came into effect on March 14, 2020. It had a length of 30 days, which meant it would expire on Monday, April 13. The Thursday before that date, the CDC announced an extension.

The second order that was announced on April 9, 2020 had a length of 100 days, which meant it would expire Friday, July 24. On Thursday, July 16, the CDC announced another extension.

The third order that was announced on July 16, 2020 and has an expiration date of September 30, 2020. The Thursday of the week before that expiration is September 24.

Again, this is no guarantee that an announcement will come this week, or that it will come on Thursday. However, the recent pattern is interesting to track.

Is The No Sail Order Likely to Be Lifted?

It’s one thing to have an update on the “No Sail Order,” but what cruisers really want to know is if the order will be lifted or extended further.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear hint one way or the other.

On the positive side, daily new cases in the United States have trended down since mid-July when the order was last extended. Case counts in busy cruise states like Florida and Texas also seem to have peaked, at least in the short-term.

Furthermore, there are some signs that the world appears to be moving on with life during COVID. Movie theaters have reopened in many places, as have gyms, and restaurants. Sporting events have also resumed, including some college football games that have thousands of fans in attendance (but are still well below capacity).

Perhaps most crucially, cruises in some European countries have resumed this month. This gives the CDC and cruise lines experience in what it takes to cruise safely. As well, cruise lines have also created plans with new safety procedures in the wake of COVID.

While there are some reasons to be positive that a sailing ban could be lifted, there are also plenty of obstacles.

While cases have trended down overall in the United States, they are still high and seem to be flattening some. There are about 40,000 daily new cases in the U.S. each day, and about 800 deaths. Worldwide, new cases continue to hit new peaks. 

And while many places are opening back up, cruise ships carry such special circumstances since they have passengers onboard for days at a time and often lots of people in smaller, indoor spaces.

Finally, in the last extension of the “No Sail Order” the CDC laid out issues with the cruise lines in rather harsh language. Sections of that order included “Difficulty of Cruise Ship Operators in Submitting Appropriate Response Plans” and “Examples of Potential Non-compliance with Extended No Sail Order”.

The end of the order even had the following harsh critique:

“The difficulty to date of cruise ship operators to submit and adhere to appropriate No Sail Order response plans during a time of limited operations, as well as ongoing concerns relating to non-compliance with disease prevention protocols and continued outbreaks of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships, highlight the need for further action prior to resuming passenger operations.”

-CDC No Sail Order (NSO)

One interesting detail is that CDC asked for public comment regarding the “No Sail Order” and how cruises should resume. There are more than 3,500 comments posted, with many calling for a return to sailing.

Even If NSO Is Lifted, It Wouldn’t Mean Back to Sailing Immediately

Cruise Ship Docked in Miami

Even if the CDC lifts its “No Sail Order,” it doesn’t mean cruises will start back immediately. In fact, the industry as a whole has a suspension through the end of October.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) — an industry group — announced back in August that its suspension would extend further than the CDC’s:

“Despite the valuable alignment between CLIA’s previous voluntary suspension to 15 September and the CDC’s current No-Sail Order date of 30 September, we believe it is prudent at this time to voluntarily extend the suspension of U.S. ocean-going cruise operations to 31 October,” the group said in a statement.

However, there was some hint at the possibility of earlier cruises.

“CLIA cruise line members will continue to monitor the situation with the understanding that we will revisit a possible further extension on or before 30 September 2020. At the same time, should conditions in the U.S. change and it becomes possible to consider short, modified sailings, we would consider an earlier restart.”

In other words, should the CDC make an announcement on lifting the order this week, then the door to cruising could open sooner rather than later.

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Tanner is the founder of Cruzely.com. Having grown up on the coast and sailing on everything from a 50' pleasure craft to the newest cruise ships, he's drawn on his experience to write hundreds of articles about every aspect of cruising. He has been quoted in The Washington Post, USAToday, and CBSNews, along with dozens more publications and websites. His homeport is Galveston, but he's visited and sailed from ports all around the country, including Miami, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades, Seattle, Los Angeles and more. You can contact him by emailing [email protected]

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