• Many customers are wondering when cruises are coming back.
  • But a new CDC report flashes warning signs for how cruises are handling the coronavirus pandemic today.
  • Just 20 of the 49 ships that have operated in US waters since April 15 tested crew members on board, the study said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals a worrying view of life aboard the few US cruise ships that have been sailing since mid-April.

According to the July 16 report, just 20 of the 49 cruise ships that have operated in US waters since April 15 have tested crew members on board.  

This contrasts with the CDC recommendation that cruise ships conduct regular, random testing of crew. The CDC urged the companies comprising America’s $53 billion cruise industry to test more regularly, even when folks don’t appear sick. 

“Absent wider availability and implementation of testing, undetected outbreaks of COVID-19 among crew are likely to reoccur,” the CDC wrote.

The US government barred all cruise lines from sailing in US waters on April 10. Some of these ships remained in operation so that they could repatriate crew members. 

The report also detailed allegations that cruise operators including Norwegian and Royal Caribbean did not follow CDC recommendations to cancel social gatherings and relocate crew to single-occupancy cabins with private bathrooms. According to the report, Royal Caribbean sent a letter to the CDC saying it had investigated six such allegations and “believed that it was in full compliance.” In its own letter, Norwegian “cited the difficulty in achieving and mandating social distancing among crew members at all times,” according to the CDC. Neither cruise line immediately responded to a request for comment.

Cruise ship operators have said they’re developing new safety procedures for when they can resume service, but this failure to regularly test crew members — or enforce social distancing — may raise a red flag for would-be passengers.

The lack of rigorous safety regulations contributed to problems on ships like the Princess Diamond, aboard which more than 700 people contracted the coronavirus as it sat off the coast of Japan in February. An April Bloomberg report revealed how mismanagement at Carnival, which owns Princess Cruises, “raised questions about corporate negligence and fleet safety.”

Nearly 3,000 passengers on US cruises from March 1 to July 10 fell ill with the coronavirus. Thirty-four have died.

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