CDC Drops COVID-19 Health Warning for Cruise Ship Travelers

FThe warning that federal health officials have placed on cruises since the outbreak of the pandemic has been dropped. It is up to tourists to make the decision about whether or not to travel aboard ships.

Cruise-ship operators welcomed Wednesday’s announcement, which came as many people thought about summer vacation plans.

A trade association representing the industry said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s move validated the measures shipowners have taken. This includes requiring all crew members to get vaccinated.

The CDC removed the COVID-19 “cruise ship travel health notice” that was first imposed in March 2020, after virus outbreaks on several ships around the world.

The agency had reservations regarding cruising.

“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,” CDC spokesman Dave Daigle said in an email.

Daigle said the CDC’s decision was based on “the current state of the pandemic and decreases in COVID-19 cases onboard cruise ships over the past several weeks.”

Although COVID-19 incidences in the United States has fallen since mid-January (although the fall has slowed over recent weeks), the seven-day average of daily new cases in the U.S. remains roughly the same from just two weeks ago. Johns Hopkins University data shows that the U.S. current rolling average for daily cases is approximately the same from the previous week. States have relaxed their mask requirements, increasing federal pressure to loosen virus restrictions.

Cruise ship crew continue to experience outbreaks. They conduct random tests before ending their journeys.

On Sunday, a Princess Cruises ship returning from the Panama Canal had “multiple” passengers who had tested positive for the virus. Princess Cruises stated that the virus was mildly or completely absent in all affected passengers and crew, with all passengers and crew being vaccinated. Around a dozen of the passengers were positive for the virus before the vessel docked at San Francisco in January.

Operators must inform the CDC of any cases of virus onboard ships. It uses a colored-coded method to determine ships according to the number of people who have been positive. According to the CDC, that system is still in use.

Operators of cruise ships have complained ever since the beginning of the pandemic about being targeted for closure and subsequent tightening COVID-19 restrictions.

The Cruise Lines International Association said in a statement that the CDC’s decision to remove its health warning “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.”

Colleen MCDaniel was the chief editor of Cruise Critic. Cruise Critic is a website that reviews trips and calls the CDC decision “big news.”

“Symbolically it’s a notice of winds of change when it comes to cruising,” she said. “I do think it can convince some of the doubters. What the CDC says does matter to cruisers.”

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