The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dropped its risk warning for cruise ships, a move that comes 2 years after the agency first warned the public about traveling and vacationing in close quarters.
“While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings,” the CDC said in a statement.
The CDC still advises passengers to get vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 before boarding a cruise ship. It also encourages travelers at a higher risk for illness or those who are immunocompromised to consult with a doctor before booking a cruise, and to keep a close watch on virus numbers and patterns.
Major cruise companies like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Carnival have been changing their protocols in recent months, eliminating mask mandates aboard ships as the pandemic numbers began to drop.
Wednesday’s announcement from the CDC was met with approval from those companies.
Cruise Lines International Association, an industry trade group, told CNN that the decision “recognizes the effective public health measures in place on cruise ships and begins to level the playing field, between cruise and similarly situated venues on land, for the first time since March 2020.”
CLIA said its members are “sailing today with health measures in place that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting.”
In early March, the CDC lowered the risk level for cruising from a more dangerous level 3 to a more moderate level 2. Just 3 months ago, in the heart of the omicron wave, cruising was at a severe level 4 warning.
Dave Daigle, a spokesman for the CDC, told USA Today that the lowering of the levels and the decision to remove the warning completely this week were based on the pandemic’s current state and the dramatic decrease in cases on cruise ships in recent weeks.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to see that the CDC recognizes that it’s time to remove the Travel Health Notice website,” Tom McAlpin, CEO of Virgin Voyages, told the Miami Herald, noting the move was a long time coming.
“It’s refreshing to see them meet us where we’re at, and clearly where our consumers are at considering the major uptick in demand we’ve seen.”
The CDC will continue to update its recommendations for those planning to cruise. It also warns cruisers planning to stop in foreign ports to be aware of the conditions to leave the ship at those stops, which vary from country to country and are changing rapidly, as well.
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