Royal Caribbean ship calls on St. Croix

Royal Caribbean International’s Serenade of the Seas makes a pre-pandemic port call at Ann E. Abramson Pier in Frederiksted, St. Croix

The V.I. economy could get a shot in the arm sooner than expected with new sailing guidelines issued on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control.

After intensive meetings with cruise line representatives, CDC leaders determined the fastest path for returning cruise ships to American ports without compromising safety. “Today, in response to the industry’s feedback, CDC announced five key clarifications with the existing CSO framework,” CDC spokeswoman Jasmine Reed said.

According to the new CDC guidelines:

Vaccinations: Ships may now bypass simulated voyages and move directly to open water sailing with passengers if a ship attests that 98% of its crew and 95% of its passengers are fully vaccinated.

Sixty-Day waiting period: CDC announced that it would review and respond to applications for simulated voyages within five days, down from the anticipated 60-day waiting period. This puts cruise ships closer to open water sailing sooner.

Testing: CDC will update its testing and quarantine requirements for passengers and crew to closely align with CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated persons. Fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to undergo NAAT testing, they may now take a simple viral test (NAA or antigen) upon embarkation. This testing change is for the restricted revenue sailings in Phase 4 of the CSO.

Port agreements: CDC clarified that cruise ship operators may enter into a multi-port agreement (as opposed to a single port agreement) provided that relevant port and local health authorities are signatories to the agreement. Such multi-port agreements may be particularly suitable if one port has limited medical or housing capacity and a nearby port is able to supplement these capacities.

Quarantine housing: CDC clarified guidance on ventilation systems and the ability for local passengers to quarantine at home if they are within driving distance.

The CDC committed to resuming cruise operations in the U.S. by mid-summer, and urged cruise lines to submit port agreements quickly to maintain the mid-July sailing goal.

Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. was among the many elected officials and industry executives who pressed the CDC to provide the new rules and set a potential sail date. In March, Bryan sent a letter to the CDC leadership signed by six bipartisan governors — including Gov. Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico — asking for the “No Sail Order” to be lifted.

The Daily News contacted Government House for comment but did not receive a response by press time.

— Contact Patricia Borns at 340-714-9104 or email pborns@dailynews.vi.