CDC lowers cruise travel warning, still remains ‘high’

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lowered the travel advisory for cruise ships, indicating the agency thinks conditions have slightly improved from late last year.

The agency on Tuesday lowered its official travel health advisory from “very high” to “high,” recommending that people should be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. That means having both a primary shot and a booster, if eligible.

The agency since Dec. 30 had recommended people avoid cruises completely.

The official travel health notice for cruise ship travel represents the status of the COVID-19 pandemic at this time, CDC said. While cases were spiking in the middle of the omicron surge, the advisory was at its highest. 

As the omicron surge fades, new infections are falling throughout the country, and many cities and states have started to ease back on mask and vaccination requirements. CDC does not require cruise passengers to wear masks, and some cruise lines, like Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, have begun rolling back their own mask rules. 

If you are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, avoid cruise ship travel, CDC said. If you are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the agency recommends avoiding cruise ship travel even if you are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.

CDC recommends passengers check the status of their cruise line’s crew vaccinations, and also see how many COVID-19 cases have been reported on their specific ship.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high, even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines,” the agency cautioned.

In a statement, the Cruise Lines International Association said lowering the threat level was a “step in the right direction” that “recognizes the leadership and effectiveness of the cruise sector’s health and safety protocols.” 

As an industry, all cruise ship staff are required to be vaccinated, as are most passengers. However, companies have not yet mandated booster shots.  

Tags CDC COVID-19 COVID-19 vaccine Cruise ships mask requirements

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