CDC Mask Mandate on Cruises Expired. What's Next?

What does that mean for passengers?

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The CDC’s conditional sail order mandating masks on cruise ships expired Saturday at midnight. But what does this mean for people who are sailing in the coming days or weeks?

It is now up to cruise lines to determine whether or not people on ships must wear a mask. Most cruise lines are requiring masks on board until the end of January.

One ship left Port Miami Sunday with around 5,000 passengers aboard. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas left on a week-long itinerary for events aimed at the LGBTQ community.

According to the Atlantis events’ website, all guests must be vaccinated for Covid-19 in order to sail and they say the crew is 100% vaccinated.

“Pretty much excited about going, passenger Ramon Lobo said. “Yet, it's kind of nerve-racking a little bit, just because of everything that’s been going on with the pandemic and all the cruise ships.”

Although he’s concerned, Lobo says the policies in place should keep him safe.

“I believe that everyone deserves to be out and about, he said. “Royal Caribbean, until now, is taking a lot of precautions and they’re being very strict about testing people, everyone being vaccinated, and masks.”

Cruise ships have seen a 30-fold increase in positive Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a Senate hearing Tuesday and the CDC is advising people to avoid traveling on cruise ships, regardless of vaccination status, due to the high risk of COVID-19 infection onboard ships.

Sharon Humphreys said nothing is going to ruin her 60th birthday celebration at sea. “I have tons of masks. I’m ready,” Humphreys said.

Recent Covid outbreaks on cruise ships have caused cancelations and sailing delays.

Royal Caribbean, for example, has paused the sailing of some of their ships for at least a few weeks. The Serenade of the Seas has the longest pause. It won’t return to it’s itinerary until late April.

“I think they’re very inconsistent,” Christian Midolo Ray from New York said.

The CDC says more information about the center’s Covid-19 program for cruises will be released soon.

“It’s just very confusing when they say in five days you can go to work but you’re still contagious for ten days but you can go to work. It’s just all over the place,” Paige Donati, also from New York said.

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