The cruise line industry ground to a halt worldwide as cases of COVID-19 began to spike in the spring.
The CDC's no-sail order, which expires on Saturday, is being replaced by a conditional sailing order, the health agency announced Friday afternoon. Cruise lines will be allowed to resume commercial operations only once companies prove to the CDC that adequate coronavirus mitigation protocols are in place.
Now, Friday's order doesn't mean cruise lines will be sailing away on trips quite yet.
Before cruises can welcome back any customers in the U.S., companies will need to implement COVID-19 safety measures, establish lab capacity to be able to test all crew members and future passengers, and participate in a mock voyage.
According to the CDC's order, the simulated voyages will be used to test ships' ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk onboard. Volunteers for those voyages will have to be older than 18 years old and can't be considered high-risk for COVID-19.
Once a cruise line is approved for a conditional sailing certificate, the CDC said trips will need to be no longer than seven days and all crew and passengers will need to be tested for COVID-19 before they embark, and before they disembark.
The agency said this order "provides a realistic timeline that anticipates COVID-19 continuing to be present and affecting cruise ship travel."
“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing. It will mitigate the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks on ships and prevent passengers and crew from seeding outbreaks at ports and in the communities where they live,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said. “CDC and the cruise industry have a shared goal to protect crew, passengers, and communities and will continue to work together to ensure that all necessary public health procedures are in place before cruise ships begin sailing with passengers.”