CDC Will Eliminate Cruise Ship Buffet, Require Organized Shore Excursions

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For cruise lines wanting to operate from a U.S. port, they will need to adhere to a number of new regulations released on Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for ships to sail under the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).

While many cruise lines have already confirmed their buffets are on hold for the time being, the CDC has made it official by now requiring them to eliminate any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, and drink stations.

The CDC will also require social distancing in all venues onboard and is recommending cruise lines provide alternative meal services options, such as prepackaged grab-and-go meals, for consumption on open decks or in individual cabins to minimize risks associated with congregate indoor dining.

Outdoor lounge seating around the pool will also have a different look, as loungers and chairs will need to be six feet apart, severely limiting outdoor seating space. These items can be grouped together for families and traveling companions, according to the CDC.

The CDC has also said cruise lines must "prohibit self-guided or independent exploration by passengers during port stops. Ensure all shore excursion tour companies facilitate social distancing to allow for at least 6 feet (2 meters) between individuals who are not traveling companions or part of the same family, mask wearing, cleaning and disinfection, and other COVID-19 public health measures throughout the tour."

This would require passengers to buy organized tours through the cruise line ahead of time.

Of note, the CDC also said cruise lines should limit shore excursions in foreign ports of call to countries listed as Level 1: COVID-19 Low in CDC’s COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination, which would take a number of Caribbean destinations out of itineraries.

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