COVID-19 UPDATES

April 29, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Small Ship, Domestic American Cruise Lines to Begin its Maine Season in Late May

 

  • American Cruise Lines’ protocols have been fully vetted by Maine CDC, making small ship, domestic cruising the next economic sector to resume in Maine, even as medium and large ship cruising remains on hold pending further technical instructions from the federal CDC. 

 

  • With protocols that are in full compliance with Maine’s public health requirements, ACL’s Independence (max 96 passengers) and American Constitution (max 175 passengers) are set to begin operations in Maine on May 22 and June 14, respectively, and will start out with a mandate that all passengers be fully vaccinated. 

AUGUSTA, ME – Today, CruiseMaine, part of the Maine Office of Tourism, announced that small, domestic ship cruise visitation is set to become the next segment to resume on Maine’s path to economic recovery. The Independence, which begins its all-Maine itinerary in Portland, and the American Constitution which operates a 10-day greater New England cruise beginning in Boston, were familiar sites in nine coastal towns stretching from Portland to Bar Harbor before the pandemic. With robust protocols in place, and the added benefit of fully vaccinated passengers, these communities will once again be able to freely welcome cruise visitors into their shops, restaurants and attractions beginning next month.

 

“We continue to keep public health in the forefront of all we do,” said Sarah Flink, Executive Director of CruiseMaine, “but we also know Maine is ready to get back to work. And our tourism and hospitality sector – which was hit especially hard – is ready to welcome back visitors of all stripes and by every mode of transportation, as long as proper safety measures are in place. The plan submitted by American Cruise Lines not only meets our public health requirements here in the state; in many cases it exceeds them. We know the pandemic is still with us, but with careful planning, alongside increasing rates of vaccination across the country and here in Maine, we are pleased to add these small domestic ships back into the mix for our summer season.”

 

Planning for a potential 2021 cruise season began last December, and CruiseMaine spent the past several months working with Maine CDC and a Task Force made up of representatives for each town, city or private facility involved in cruise operations. With the fate of federal and state mandates hard to predict, the group focused on the one piece of the puzzle in their control: port readiness. Shoreside protocols for all ports visited by American Cruise Lines are nearly complete, and now with the Administration’s stamp of approval, Maine’s cruise communities are well-positioned to benefit from the economic impact these passengers will bring.

 

“American Cruise Lines safely resumed small ship cruising throughout the United States earlier this year, and we are thrilled that the Independence and American Constitution will sail the Maine Coast this season,” said ACL Executive Vice President Paul Taiclet. “Through our Health and Safety plan as well as the support from Maine CDC and CruiseMaine, we are able to cruise the majestic coast of Maine, with our guests providing a meaningful boost to the local economy. We are committed to keeping our guests, crew, and the communities we visit safe and are delighted to visit Maine in 2021.”

 

American Cruise Lines was among the first small ship, domestic lines to resume passenger operations following more than a yearlong pause. With a season that began in mid-March out of Jacksonville, FL, they currently have six vessels operating across eight states, with the Pacific Northwest market set to resume in early May followed by New England and Alaska. As with all public health measures, ACL’s current mandatory vaccination for passengers will continue to be evaluated as public health metrics evolve.

 

 The future of the 2021 season remains unclear for cruise ships larger than the 250-person threshold set by the federal CDC. Cruise ships above that capacity cutoff are currently prohibited from operating in U.S. waters until they have been granted a “conditional sailing permit” by CDC. So far, CDC has not provided all the necessary technical documentation for that permitting to happen. The situation is rapidly evolving, however, as CDC officials and industry representatives work together to adapt to the changing public health situation in the U.S.

 

Cruise lines announced recently that they require 90 days to get a large ship ready for passenger operations, which puts Maine’s early summer season out of the question. A late summer or fall season remains possible, but without a clear timeline in place, experts consider it unlikely. Some of the new protocols developed in response to COVID-19 are here to stay, and with strong cruise bookings in 2022, Maine can expect to see some of these new protocols become standard practice going forward.

December 16, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CruiseMaine Hosts Initial Planning Session for Potential 2021 Cruise Season

 

AUGUSTA, ME – Yesterday, CruiseMaine, part of the Maine Office of Tourism, hosted an informative kickoff session to begin the planning process for a potential 2021 cruise season. Attendees included representatives from Maine ports, the Maine CDC and others involved in businesses or attractions that benefit from cruise passenger visits.

 

All passenger cruise operations in U.S. waters have been suspended since March 14, 2020 when most cruise lines voluntarily suspended operations and the CDC issued a No Sail Order. On October 30, the No Sail Order was replaced with a Framework for Resuming Safe and Responsible Cruise Ship Operations. This new framework outlines numerous requirements that a cruise ship must meet before it can receive a conditional certification to sail in U.S. waters, including several “simulated voyages” to test new protocols. It also outlines several requirements for shoreside operations, ranging from social distancing to contingency planning for potential cases.

 

“This framework provides a pathway to resume safe and responsible sailing,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “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 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.”

 

Tuesday’s CruiseMaine meeting provided an overview of these CDC requirements and included a presentation by Ioannis Bras of Five Senses Consulting & Development, based in Greece. Mr. Bras, who has a background in risk mitigation and cruise ship operations, helped draft the new health and safety protocols adopted by Greek ports before passenger operations resumed there last August.

 

“One of our key objectives at CruiseMaine is to help our member ports with regulatory compliance,” said Sarah Flink, executive director of CruiseMaine. “Although the beginning of our season is still several months away and may very well be delayed further depending on health metrics and other factors, we know safe resumption of cruise operations in Maine will involve everyone from longshoremen to tour operators to medical facilities. Our goal with this meeting and the rest of the planning process is to provide all stakeholders with timely, accurate information and ultimately, to create a statewide plan for how we can once again safely offer our renowned, warm Maine welcome to cruise visitors.”

 

“None of us can operate in a bubble in Maine,” said Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority. “We all need to work together to plan for all possibilities if we want to get cruise and really our whole economy up and running again. This meeting is a good start, and I look forward to getting to work in January on the rest of the plan.”

September 11, 2020

 

CDC ISSUES REQUEST FOR INFORMATION ON RESUMPTION OF CRUISE OPERATIONS. DEADLINE TO SUBMIT: SEPT 21, 2020

 

The biggest development of the summer has been that US CDC also released a Request for Information (RFI) on the resumption of passenger cruise operations in US waters. stating:

 

  • CDC seeks information related to cruise ship planning and infrastructure, resumption of passenger operations and additional summary questions. This information may be used to inform future public health guidance and preventative measures relating to travel on cruise ships.

 

The RFI includes 28 detailed questions pertaining to all aspects of resuming cruise operations in the US. 6 of the 28 questions deal in some way with shoreside operations. While most of the RFI questions are quite technical and may extend beyond what many of our Maine stakeholders would be responsible for in cruise operations, it's also an option to submit a letter expressing the importance of the industry to you or your business and requesting that CDC prioritize dialogue and collaboration on how to safely resume cruise tourism in the US when the time is right. 

 

You may submit comments, identified by Docket No. CDC-2020-0087 by any of the following methods listed below. CDC does not accept comment by email. Please cc: Maine’s Federal Delegation on the letter.

 

 

  • Mail: Maritime Unit, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road NE, MS V18-2, Atlanta, GA 30329.

 

Instructions: All submissions received must include the agency name and Docket Number. All relevant comments received will be posted without change to https://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided. 

 

For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to https://www.regulations.gov.

 

If you are interested in submitting a response to the RFI and would like additional information including access to some sample letters, please watch for information on an educational session the week of Sept 14 or contact CruiseMaine.

NO SAIL ORDER EXTENDED THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30, 2020 BUT CRUISE LINES EXTEND VOLUNTARY SUSPENSION THROUGH OCTOBER 31, 2020

 

In case you missed it: on Thursday, July 16, 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced another extension of its existing No Sail Order for most passenger cruise ships (see below for full definition) that had been in effect since March 14. 

 

This No Sail Order will continue in operation until the earliest of the following three conditions are met:

 

  • The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency

 

  • The Director of the Center for Disease Control rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations

 

  • September 30, 2020

 

The order applies to: 

 

  • All commercial, non-cargo, passenger-carrying vessels operating in international, interstate, or intrastate waterways and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States with the capacity to carry 250 or more individuals (passengers and crew) with an itinerary anticipating an overnight stay onboard or a twenty-four (24) hour stay onboard for either passengers or crew.

 

Just ten days later, on August 5, Cruise Line International Association announced an extension of its voluntary suspension of U.S. ocean-going cruise operations through October 31, 2020, extending a full month beyond the CDC's updated No Sail Order. 

 

CRUISING BEGINS IN EUROPE AND ASIA 

 

In the past two weeks, a limited number of cruise ships have begun sailing with reduced passenger capacity out of a few ports in Europe and Asia, including Hamburg, Genoa, Marseille and Taiwan. Read more.

June 2, 2020

 

CANADA EXTENDS CRUISE SHIP PROHIBITIONS THROUGH OCT. 31, AFFECTING MAJORITY OF MAINE'S REMAINING CRUISE SEASON

On May 29, the Canadian government extended its restrictions on cruise ships with the following parameters:

 

Cruise ships with overnight accommodations allowed to carry more than 100 persons

are prohibited from operating in Canadian waters until October 31, 2020.

 

This announcement effectively cancels the remainder of the 2020 cruise season in all Canadian ports, which traditionally runs through late October.

 

Canada’s restrictions will also impact most of Maine’s remaining 2020 calls due to the requirements of the US Passenger Vessel Services Act, which mandates that all foreign-flag passenger vessels leaving from a US port make at least one call in an international port before returning to the US. The vast majority of foreign-flag vessels that call in Maine meet the PVSA requirements by calling on a Canadian port.

 

  • The new Canadian restrictions therefore affect at least 133 calls from foreign-flag ships scheduled to visit Portland, Rockland, Bar Harbor and Eastport between July 24 and October 31.

 

  • Prior to this Canadian announcement, Maine’s season had been deferred by the US CDC’s 100-day no sail order which currently extends through July 24 and which applies to all vessels carrying 250 or more persons (including passengers and crew).

 

  • The Mills administration had also announced on April 28 that it did not anticipate it would be safe to allow cruise ship visitation this summer, though no formal cancellations were mandated by the announcement.

WHAT ABOUT THE AMERICAN CRUISE LINE SHIPS THAT COME TO MAINE?

 

American Cruise Lines (ACL) vessels Independence and American Constitution are US-flagged and therefore not affected by Canada’s restrictions, nor are they affected by the CDC’s no sail order because they fall below the order’s 250-person threshold. 

 

ACL has, however, voluntarily delayed the start date for both of these vessels, which were scheduled to come to Maine this season. They hope to restart later this summer, pending state approval of both itineraries. 

 

  • The Independence has an all-Maine itinerary that includes Portland, Bar Harbor, Belfast, Castine, Camden, Rockland, Boothbay Harbor, Bath and occasionally (for weather adjustments) Bucksport. 

 

  • The American Constitution follows a greater New England itinerary that starts in Boston before visiting Portland, Bar Harbor, Camden, Rockland and Boothbay Harbor in Maine and then continuing on to Gloucester, MA; Newport, RI; Martha’s Vineyard, MA; Provincetown, MA and finally returning to Boston. 

 

This week, state officials as well as officials from all the Maine ports listed above received detailed information from ACL on their planned enhancements to operational protocols, including: 

 

  • An on-board registered nurse or EMT 

  • Diagnostic (PCR swab) testing of all passengers before departure

  • Health screenings for temperature, pulse, respiration and oxygen 

  • Enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures 

  • Reduced passenger capacity for ship 

  • Modifications to food service and dining halls to minimize contact and promote social distancing 

 

As more information becomes available in the coming days, CruiseMaine will be offering a Zoom meeting for stakeholders, including a Q&A period, to provide an update on the status of American Cruise Lines’ 2020 season in Maine. Please keep an eye out for a follow-up email with more details. 

EASTPORT CITY COUNCIL & GOVERNOR'S OFFIVE APPROVE LAY UP OF CRUISE SHIP RIVIERA

 

The MS Riviera, a 785-foot Oceania Cruises vessel currently anchored off Miami, may come to Eastport to lay up for 60 days or more, pending final federal and cruise line approval. The vessel has minimal crew onboard and has not hosted any passengers for over two months since the US CDC's first no sail order went into effect on March 13.

 

Parent company Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) received final approval from the Governor Mills' Office on Friday, May 29, following a 4-1 vote on May 20 by the Eastport City Council in support of allowing the ship to lay up at the breakwater facility owned and managed by the Eastport Port Authority.

 

NCLH officials confirmed to Eastport city councilors and other community representatives on a May 14th call that crew will be required to stay aboard the vessel at all times.

 

For more information, please watch for an upcoming press release by the Eastport Port Authority.

April 13, 2020

 

On Thursday, April 9, 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an extension of its existing No Sail Order for most passenger cruise ships (see below for full definition) that had been in effect since March 14.

This No Sail Order will continue in operation until the earliest of the following three conditions are met:

  • The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency

  • The Director of the Center for Disease Control rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations

  • 100 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register (if that publication in the Federal Register were to happen today, April 10, that would extend the order to July 20)

The order applies to:

  • All commercial, non-cargo, passenger-carrying vessels operating in international, interstate, or intrastate waterways and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States with the capacity to carry 250 or more individuals (passengers and crew) with an itinerary anticipating an overnight stay onboard or a twenty-four (24) hour stay onboard for either passengers or crew.


Perhaps the most important message here is that the federal authorities are closely involved in the regulation of cruise ship operations and these No Sail Orders make it clear that they have stringent requirements in place before any of these vessels will be allowed to operate in US ports.

As stated by CDC Director Robert Redfield, “We are working with the cruise line industry to address the health and safety of crew at sea as well as communities surrounding U.S. cruise ship points of entry. The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect Americans, and we will continue to provide critical public health guidance to the industry to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on its workforce throughout the remainder of this pandemic.”

 



THE FINE PRINT

100 days is an easy-to-understand timeline, but on that note, it's important to remember the CDC will be able to extend that timeline as they see fit, just as they did here.

 

But how likely are the other two conditions to occur? While we cannot answer that question directly, there are a few facts that can shed some light on their likelihood.

 

Regarding condition #1 for lifting this No Sail Order, the expiration of the national public health emergency:

  • The novel coronavirus public health emergency (PHE) was declared by HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Mr. Azar on January 27, 2020 upon confirming that we had the first positive cases of COVID-19 on US soil.

  • This PHE declaration is different than the national emergency declared by President Trump on March 13, 2020. A public health emergency has a much lower threshold than a national emergency that the President declares. For example, a national PHE was first declared for the opioid crisis in October of 2017. That declaration has since been renewed nine times, the most recent being on January 24, 2020.

  • Declaring a public health emergency enables the Secretary of Health and Human Services to access Emergency Public Health funds, make grants, supply equipment, and perform many other "discretionary actions" to mitigate the emergency. Many of these powers are outlined on HHS's FAQ on public health emergency declarations.

 

Regarding condition #2 for lifting this No Sail Order, a rescinding of the order by the CDC Director:

  • Cruise Lines International Association has been working closely with the CDC and the US Coast Guard since late March to define and implement new protocols that will meet CDC requirements for preventing the spread of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships.

  • This renewed No Sail Order carefully outlines exactly what conditions the cruise lines would need to be able to meet in order to be allowed to embark and debark passengers and crew within the US. These conditions can be found on p. 6-8 of the full order.

March 26, 2020


The primary concern of CruiseMaine and all its member ports is for the health and safety of residents and visitors to our port communities. We also understand the economic repercussions to our state due to a severely disrupted tourism season caused by measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 


As the cruise industry makes necessary adjustments to public health information, market conditions and government policies, the situation remains fluid. We are continually in touch with industry partners including federal, state and local officials and will share updates as we have them.


As of today, we know that there will be no cruise ships visiting Maine until at least May 1, 2020. We expect to know more in the coming two to three weeks.  


As a partnership between the Maine Office of Tourism, the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development, the Maine Department of Transportation, and the Maine Port Authority, CruiseMaine will continue to stay abreast of this evolving situation and will be in touch as we learn more.