“A step in the right direction”: CDC lowers cruise travel warning

Masking between bites of your cruise ship meal? The latest furor over the CDC’s cruise restart requirements

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The CDC has reportedly relaxed some of its restrictions for cruise lines restarting sailings out of U.S. ports, specifically when it comes to masking.

 However the requirements are still onerous enough that NCLH CEO Frank Del Rio is calling one of them “preposterous.”

Already passengers are allowed to go maskless in their own staterooms.

According to multiple media reports, the CDC has also dropped its requirement for masking outdoors for fully vaccinated passengers.

“Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise passengers and crew that – if they are fully vaccinated – they may gather or conduct activities outdoors, including engaging in extended meal service or beverage consumption, without wearing a mask except in crowded settings,” says the CDC Operations Manual for Simulated and Restricted Voyages under the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.



The CDC then lays out its requirement for masking during mealtimes:

“While the Order permits temporarily removing a mask for brief periods of time while eating or drinking, removal of the mask for extended meal service or beverage consumption would constitute a violation of this Order.”

Cruise lines are already prohibited from offering self-service buffet-style dining options under the CDC’s guidelines.

Under its ‘Food Service’ category of requirements, the CDC says:

“Consider options for consumers to order ahead of time to limit the amount of time spent in the restaurant. 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.”


The cruise industry has worked with the CDC for more than a year in an effort to get cruising restarted safely from U.S. ports, and NCLH together with Royal Caribbean Group submitted its ‘Healthy Sail Panel’ recommendations to the CDC in 2020.

However as air travel starts to soar again in the U.S., and travel ramps up in the wake of the country’s strong vaccination rollout, many cruise companies including NCLH have spoken out about the CDC’s treatment of the cruise line industry.

While the CDC has indicated that sailings from U.S. ports could be possible by July 2021, its updated CSO has many in the industry pushing back against what they say are excessive requirements.

In response to the masking and dining rules, Del Rio said, “Even though everyone on board would be vaccinated, in between bites of your meal and in between sips of your beverage, you have to put on your mask, take off your mask.

“Nobody should order soup because your mask might get sloppy. That to me is just preposterous.”

Last week during NCLH’s earnings call Del Rio fired back at the CDC’s test cruise requirements, calling them “preposterous, impractical and onerous.”

And when asked about how he felt about the CDC’s approach to the cruise industry compared to other modes of travel, Del Rio said: “Perplexed, flabbergasted and outraged.”


Register Now!  Travelweek’s ‘Future of Travel: Sunnier Days Ahead’ will take place Wed. May 19, from 1 – 3 p.m.  Click here to register now, travelweekfutureoftravel.com

Get travel news right to your inbox!