Cruise ships are assigned a “green,” “yellow” or “red” designation, related to the presence of COVID-19 on the ship. Green ships have had no confirmed COVID-19 cases or similar illnesses for 28 days; yellow ships are awaiting test results; and red ships have had confirmed or similar illnesses in the ast 28 days. Crew transfers and repatriation via commercial means are now allowed on green ships but not on yellow or red ones.
Here’s what each designation means in detail:
Green (currently unaffected by COVID-19, per the cruise line):
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Each designation also means there are certain requirements and recommendations for asymptomatic crew members aboard. For example: Crew members on green ships are recommended to stay in single-occupancy cabins with private bathrooms, while that is required on yellow and red ships. The closure of all crew bars, gyms or other group settings is not required on green ships, but it is the case on yellow and red ships. Handshaking is discouraged on all ships.
If a confirmed green ship wishes to use commercial transportation to disembark crew, it has to submit a plan to the CDC. The CDC will inform the ship if it has made “green” clearance and will post a list of these ships on its website. Commercial travel won’t be allowed if the ship status changes to yellow or red.
Trade group Cruise Lines International Association said “the cruise industry is committed to working with the CDC to understand the new requirements and seek clarity regarding the use of commercial transportation for the repatriation of healthy crew,” according to a statement provided by spokesperson Bari Golin-Blaugrund.
“Since the voluntary suspension of cruise passenger operations in mid-March, CLIA ocean-going cruise line members have been working around the clock to arrange for the repatriation of thousands of crewmembers from at least 100 countries, each with its own set of travel restrictions. … The International Health Regulations of the World Health Organization require all governments to treat persons ‘with respect for their dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms and minimize any discomfort or distress’ when implementing health measures. These principles remain a critical component of the cruise lines’ efforts to arrange for the safe return of crewmembers to their homes and families.”
Royal Caribbean, for its part, is reviewing the new guidance.
“We are studying the CDC’s latest update. We will continue to work with CDC and other authorities toward our shared goal of getting our crew safely home,” Royal Caribbean spokesperson Jonathon Fishman told USA TODAY.
Cruise ship operators say they are eager to get crews home.
The Cruise Line International Association indicated its members are doing their best to abide by CDC rules and to repatriate crews. Executives at individual companies, however, are far more direct.
“We are doing everything we possibly can for our crew, and we are frustrated as they are about the difficulty in getting them home,” Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, told USA TODAY. “Money is literally no object. We are willing to charter flights home, wherever home may be.”
The problem, he said, is “we are dealing with a regulatory landscape that seems to change daily and forces us to adjust our plans just as frequently.”
British cruise line PO Cruises, a Carnival subsidiary, is canceling all its sailings until Oct. 15 because of the coronavirus pandemic – after a move by Canada to ban cruises and ferries carrying more than 100 people with overnight capacity in its waters through Oct. 31.
Royal Caribbean also announced it would cancel sailings to Alaska, Canada and New England through October.
“As a result of the Government of Canada’s decision to extend its restriction on cruise ships carrying more than 100 guests until Oct. 31, Royal Caribbean 2020 sailings to Canada, New England and Alaska must be canceled,” Fishman confirmed to USA TODAY.
“We are working with public health agencies and governments to ensure a safe return to service, and look forward to setting sail from and to these destinations next year,” he added.
Contributing: Morgan Hines, Chris Woodyard