Cruise Lines International Association, the leading trade organization for the global ocean-going cruise industry, says its member cruise lineshave voluntarily extended the suspension of U.S. cruise operations until Sept. 15 amid coronavirus concerns.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s current “no-sail order” is scheduled to expire on July 24, but no extension has yet been announced.

CLIA’s member lines carry 95% of the world’s ocean-going cruisers. The new order will apply to all CLIA member ships that the current CDC order applies to – vessels that can carry 250 or more passengers.

“Although we had hoped that cruise activity in the U.S. could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States,” Bari Golin-Blaugrund, senior director for strategic communications told USA TODAY, noting the organization informed the CDC of its continued voluntary suspension.

The extension comes with a caveat: The situation will be continually reevaluated as Sept. 15 approaches and the suspension may be extended further, Golin-Blaugrund explained.

“We want the traveling public to know in no uncertain terms that when we do resume operations in the U.S., it will be with the confidence that we have the necessary protocols and systems in place, and that we have done so with the input of the CDC,” she added.

Major lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line, have already extended their sailing suspensions well into fall, and Canada issued a ban on cruises in the country’s waters through Oct. 31.

The group’s global board of directors met on Friday and put the decision to a vote. All members agreed to adhere to the suspension.

The decision leaves nearly three months before major cruise companies, including cruising giant Carnival Corp., can potentially ramp up their operations.

“CLIA cruise line members are using this time to explore new ideas and concepts to further enhance already stringent public health protocols and policies,” Golin-Blaugrund said. “Additionally, caring for and repatriating crew members is the number one priority for CLIA cruise line members right now.”

Specific plans pertaining to coronavirus and general health on board are still being developed. Golin-Blaugrund said that the industry is taking a “holistic approach.”

“One theme that continues to emerge in these conversations is the concept of a ‘door-to-door’ strategy, beginning at the time of booking through the return of passengers to their homes,” she said.

The industry is also looking to bolster screening protocol, implement additional health and sanitation practices for ships and terminals, and onboard prevention, surveillance and response. 

CLIA members are also looking to explore enhanced passenger and crew screening, social distancing, modifying or eliminating buffet dining options, enhanced onboard medical capability, new training for crew members and pre-arranged medical evacuation options with consideration to local healthcare.

Friday, when asked about the no-sail order ahead of CLIA’s decision, Caitlin Shockey, spokesperson for the CDC told USA TODAY that the CDC was still monitoring the situation on cruise ships and was reviewing cruise lines’ plans regarding to COVID-19.

“At this point in time, we do not have enough information to say when it will be safe for cruise ships to resume sailing.” 

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