CDC recommends certain travelers avoid cruise ships, even if fully vaccinated

Aug 21, 2021

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On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for COVID-19 and cruise ship travel. The organization now recommends that “people with an increased risk of severe illness should also avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, regardless of vaccination status.”

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Before this update, the CDC recommended that “people who are not fully vaccinated avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide.”

The CDC statement goes on to explain that “older adults and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are more likely to get severely ill if they get COVID-19. People with weakened immune systems, including people who take medicines that suppress their immune systems, may not be protected even if fully vaccinated.”

Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras ship docked in San Juan (Photo by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy)

After all, the CDC guidance for COVID-19 and cruise ship travel states that “the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters aboard ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high. Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships.” So, if you or a travel companion has an increased risk of severe illness, it may be prudent to reschedule any upcoming cruise plans.

Related: Delta variant is on the rise — Here’s what to do if you need to cancel your trip

Since the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high, the CDC encourages travelers to test one to three days before cruising and three to five days after disembarking, even if fully vaccinated. Of course, if you test positive, you should isolate and not travel.

If you aren’t fully vaccinated, the CDC says you should self-quarantine for seven days after cruise travel even if you test negative (or 10 days after cruise travel if you don’t test) and avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days.

Related: Is it safe to travel as the delta variant spreads? Here’s what the experts say

If you cruise, use the hand sanitizer stations or wash your hands often. (Photo by Gene Sloan/The Points Guy)

The CDC recommends that people on cruise ships “wear a mask to keep their nose and mouth covered when in shared spaces.” But since the CDC’s mask order isn’t enforced on cruise ships, mask policies differ across cruise lines. As such, the CDC provides the following onboard guidance if you decide to cruise during the pandemic:

  • Stay at least six feet from anyone who is not traveling with you. Do this everywhere — both indoors and outdoors — if you are not fully vaccinated.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay in your cabin and notify the onboard medical center immediately.

Of course, if you plan to return to the U.S. by air after an international cruise, you’ll need to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result no more than three days before travel or provide documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months. And, consider the possibility that you may test positive and need to recover and quarantine abroad.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured photo of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas docked at Perfect Day at CocoCay by Ashley Kosciolek/The Points Guy.

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