Due to a ruling in 2016 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection, bans were implemented on cruises to nowhere aboard foreign-flagged ships sailing from U.S. Ports.
What is a cruise to nowhere?
A cruise to nowhere is what it is called: passengers board a cruise ship for a short voyage before returning to the departure port without calling into any ports. Often it is for a two to three night cruise, regularly sailing into international waters, but not always.
When did cruises to nowhere stop in the USA?
Until 2016 various cruise lines were offering cruises to nowhere, usually three night cruises, from various ports such as New York on Norwegian Cruise Line or Carnival.
It all came to a halt when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a new ruling that banned all these cruises aboard foreign-flagged ships sailing from U.S. ports.
Why did the CBP halt cruises to nowhere in the USA?
The ruling, in effect, considers that a cruise to nowhere doesn't technically leave the US, even when it cruises into international waters as they do not dock in a foreign port or territory.
It is based purely on an immigration concern. Crew members working on cruise ships departing from the US are D-1 visa holders.
"As explained in a 1014 Federal court opinion (Bimini Superfast v. Winkowski), it has been a longstanding position of the CBP that D-1 visa holders are not eligible to serve as crew members on cruises to nowhere."
As the CBP considers the cruise ship to never leave U.S. waters on a cruise to nowhere, it therefore makes all crew members subject to normal U.S. immigration regulations.
So all crew members that are not American citizens or lawfully authorised to work on U.S. soil, if working on a cruise to nowhere, will have to obtain a "normal" U.S. work permit, as they are technically working in the U.S.
The only way that this can be bypassed is by sailing to a foreign port or territory at least once during a cruise.
How to go around the rule?
The only way a cruise line can get around the regulation is to have a ship that is staffed with American crew or foreign crews that have full-on U.S. work permits.
Before the pandemic, the only major cruise line that was running only US itineraries was Norwegian Cruise Lines - Pride of America.
The ship is flagged in the U.S. with mostly American crew, therefore it meets the CBP ruling to sail in U.S. waters without having to call on a foreign port.