Cruise ships worldwide with more than 250 people will test all passengers, crew for COVID-19

Cruise lines around the world have committed to testing every passenger and crew member for COVID-19 before boarding, the industry's leading trade group, Cruise Lines International Association, said Tuesday.

"CLIA ocean cruise line members worldwide have agreed to conduct 100% testing of passengers and crew on all ships with a capacity to carry 250 or more persons – with a negative test required for any embarkation," Bari Golin-Blaugrund, vice president of strategic communications for Cruise Lines International Association, told USA TODAY in a statement.

"The global policy applies to ships capable of carrying 250 or more people, which is consistent with the policy in place as it relates to ships sailing from U.S. ports," Golin-Blaugrund said.

The CDC's "no-sail" order bars ships that can carry at least 250 passengers from cruising in U.S. waters until Nov. 1. The testing requirement is "effective immediately worldwide," Golin-Blaugrund said.

CLIA's member lines carry 95% of the world's oceangoing cruisers.

The cruise industry is the first in the travel and tourism sector to commit to worldwide pre-embarkation testing of all passengers and crew. Several airlines have announced testing initiatives, but not on an industry-wide basis.

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"We see testing as an important initial step to a multi-layered approach that we believe validates the industry’s commitment to making health, safety, and the well-being of the passengers, the crew, and the communities we visit our top priority," Golin-Blaugrund said.

The cruise lines association did not specify whether it would use rapid or PCR (nasal swab) testing or whether passengers will be tested several days before they arrive at the port.

Cruisers reacted to the news when posted on social media.

Cruise YouTuber couple Cruise with Ben & David responded positively, noting they hope to get back to sea soon with a retweet of the news.

"Great to see but why are cruise being made to do things other forms of travel don't have to?" they wrote on Twitter. "We could literally get on a 4-hour flight and sit 3 inches next to a complete stranger with no test or even temperature check! Crazy days, we just hope cruise & travel will be back soon!"

Stuart Falk responded to the duo with skepticism.

"Such quick result tests in any case are proven to be unreliable and don't pick up COVID-19 in its first several days of infection," Falk wrote. "Bottom line: No one should travel, particularly unnecessary leisure travel, until the CDC and their personal physicians tell give the all clear."

Another cruiser responded to the cruise association's Instagram post that shared the news.

"Fantastic! We look forward to feeling more comfortable on our upcoming Caribbean Holiday Cruise on #Seabourn," wrote Michelle M Reavis.

CLIA announced mandatory health protocols for ships subject to the CDC's "no-sail" order at the end of September. But the other elements such as masks and physical distancing that were previously announced will not apply to ships worldwide.

Although cruise lines are allowed to resume sailing as soon as Nov. 1, many companies aren't rushing back to sea.

On Monday, Norwegian Cruise Line and its sister companies canceled all November sailings. Carnival has scrubbed all remaining 2020 cruises except those sailing out of its home ports in Florida, and would not even commit to those. Princess Cruises, a Carnival subsidiary, has extended its operational suspension through Dec. 15. Virgin Voyages, which debuted in 2020, has also canceled all of its November sailings, spokeswoman Michelle Estevam confirmed to USA TODAY.

But Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have all indicated on earnings calls that booking numbers for 2021 remain strong as customers look forward to taking the cruises they missed out on this year.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cruise industry to test all passengers, crew before boarding worldwide