The CDC says it’s safe to cruise — but don’t ditch those COVID-19 tests just yet

Mar 30, 2022

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After imposing more than two years of COVID-19 restrictions on the cruise industry, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lifted its travel health notice for the sector, removing its warning level completely as the number of onboard cases has dropped. Most recently, the warning was at a Level 2.

What does that mean for cruisers? Nothing, really.

The change is significant because, for the first time since the start of the pandemic, there is no warning for anyone considering an at-sea vacation.

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“Today’s decision by the … CDC to altogether remove the Travel Health Notice for cruising recognizes the effective public health measures in place on cruise ships and begins to level the playing field between cruise [ships] and similarly situated venues on land,” said a statement from the Cruise Lines International Association, an organization that collectively advocates for most of the industry’s major brands.

“The removal of the health notice demonstrates the transition back into pre-pandemic operations for the cruise industry,” Virgin Voyages said in a statement about the CDC’s decision.

But that does not mean cruise lines are scrapping their onboard health and safety measures.

“While we feel this was a long time coming, we recognize this move as a demonstration of all of the hard work this industry has done to ensure that we’re offering the safest way to travel,” said Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin.

Holland America echoed that sentiment with its president, Gus Antorcha, saying, “The CDC’s removal of its health notice related to cruise travel is an important step forward in recognizing the work we have done to protect our guests. … we continue to operate vaccinated cruises and have created a safe and healthy environment for our guests, our teams, and the communities we serve, helping to ensure cruising is among the safest forms of socializing and travel.”

Since voyages restarted for U.S. cruisers in spring 2021, lines have had the most stringent rules of any travel sector, requiring passengers to be fully vaccinated, submit to health screenings and temperature checks and, until recently, stay socially distant and wear masks on board.

Lines have also developed advanced contact tracing systems and added quarantine and isolation cabins on their ships.

In December 2021, the warning level was raised to a Level 4, which advised people to avoid cruising completely, regardless of their vaccination status. In February, the agency dropped the warning to Level 3, urging at-risk passengers to steer clear of cruises, even if vaccinated.

Currently, under the CDC’s travel recommendation warning system, 114 countries are under a Level 4 warning, 33 are under a Level 3, 14 are at Level 2, and 36 are at Level 1.

Featured photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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