(12:25 p.m. EDT) -- Members of the Cruise Lines International Association have agreed to pre-boarding COVID-19 testing on all passengers and crew, regardless of geography.
CLIA's global CEO Kelly Craighead made the announcement today at the world's biggest cruise conference, Seatrade, as "as a core element of initial resumption globally."
"I'm pleased to announce that effective today all CLIA Ocean cruise line members worldwide have agreed to conduct 100 percent 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," said Kelly Craighead, CLIA Global CEO.
"Recognising no measure in isolation is sufficient to prevent the introduction onboard of COVID-19, 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."
A statement from CLIA described the move as "a travel industry first and an example of the cruise industry leading the way".
The news will come as no surprise to US ocean lines, all of whom agreed to pre-boarding testing in a report from the Healthy Sail Panel submitted to the Centers for Disease Control last month.
However, the news appears to contradict restart plans drawn up by CLIA in the UK with the UK Chamber of Shipping just last week which explicitly do not include mandatory pre-boarding testing for passengers -- just for crew.
The announcement also did not specify what kind of pre-boarding COVID-19 testing would take place. All of the large ship lines that have resumed cruising safely -- MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises and TUI Cruises -- have done with mandatory pre-boarding testing. All these lines require a negative COVID-19 test before boarding, although the timelines are slightly different.
MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises do rapid testing in the terminal, with a more thorough PCR test given if a positive result shows up. On TUI, passengers must show a negative test taken before sailing.
When asked at the time why the framework submitted to the UK government omitted pre-boarding COVID-19 testing, Tony Roberts, VP UK Princess Cruises and Chair of CLIA UK & Ireland, said:
"The framework is exactly that -- it's a framework -- and it talks about medical screening, as part of that embarkation process. The reason that it's not specific about exactly what that entails is because it's a framework document which should be based on a risk-based approach."
Andy Harmer, CLIA UK & Ireland director, said: "Today’s announcement enhances the UK Framework published by the the UK Chamber of Shipping last week, further distinguishing the cruise industry as a leader within the travel sector.
"As the scientific understanding of COVID-19 is constantly updated, the UK Framework will likewise continue to evolve to reflect those changes."
The news is moot as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office still advises against all ocean cruising and there is still no indication when that ban (which does not apply to river cruising) will be lifted. In addition, most UK cruise lines have suspended operations until next spring.
"The advice from the authorities is still not to cruise until sometime next year," said Carnival Corp CEO Arnold Donald speaking at a State of the Industry Panel straight after the announcement.
"We'll see if that changes over the coming weeks or months or not and I'm sure it will be dependent on their assessment of the pandemic in the UK itself."