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Will Cruise Lines Actually Try Simulated Voyages with Volunteers?

Norwegian Encore in Miami

With the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releasing a set of guidelines for cruise lines to apply and conduct so-called test voyages for simulation purposes with passengers, the agency left the door open for an easy workaround: vaccines.

"In lieu of conducting a simulated voyage, cruise ship operator responsible officials, at their discretion, may sign and submit to CDC an attestation under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 that 98 percent of crew are fully vaccinated and submit to CDC a clear and specific vaccination plan and timeline to limit cruise ship sailings to 95 percent of passengers who have been verified by the cruise ship operator as fully vaccinated prior to sailing," the CDC said.

This would eliminate the need for complex trial voyages with a litany of requirements, plus the need to submit paperwork, plans and more 30 days prior to the cruise.

In short, cruise lines can avoid the complicated simulated voyage on a per-ship basis by requiring the vast majority of crew and passengers to have an approved COVID-19 vaccination. 

This would accelerate a quick return to service, which still see cruise ships sail under the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), requiring various pandemic prevent measures including touchless embarkation, testing, face mask requirements, social distancing, limited occupancy and more.

One downside of a vaccine requirement is it would severely limited the number of children aboard ships for the time-being. Cruise lines may try a path to having some vessels with a vaccine requirement, and some without.

Another factor operators may consider is the summer. With an aggressive time frame of returning to limited operations in mid to late July, there would be a curtailed summer season left before school resumes in the United States and the demographic mix aboard megaships sees more adults and less families aboard. 

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