The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has lowered its travel warning for cruise ships for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged.
Instead of classing cruise travel at Level 4 (the highest level), the CDC now has a Level 3 warning on cruise ships.
The updated travel guidance from the CDC comes just days before the deadline for cruise lines to opt-in to its new COVID-19 mitigation program, which replaces the current Conditional Sailing Order.
The new program retains many elements associated with the Conditional Sailing Order, but is voluntary for cruise lines. It is anticipated, however, that most major cruise companies operating from US ports will sign-up to the program.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), an industry body representing around 95% of all cruise ships in operation, called the move by the CDC a step in the right direction, and highlighted the advanced anti-COVID health and safety measures deployed by the industry in the US.
“[The lower warning level] recognizes the leadership and effectiveness of the cruise sector’s health and safety protocols that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting,” the CLIA said in a statement.
“Cruise ships have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated,” it added.
“As a result, cases of COVID-19 are very low with the vast majority mild or asymptomatic—making cruise unequaled in its multi-layered approach to effectively mitigating COVID-19,” the statement continued.
While a Level 3 travel warning from Level 4 may be seen as a step in the right direction, the CDC still calls on the public to avoid cruise travel if one is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 even if they are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
“Cruise ship travel is not a zero-risk activity,” the CDC said. “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.”
Meanwhile, the CDC told cruise guests to check the color and vaccination status of the ship they plan to sail on, as part of the agency’s new program for cruise ships.