CDC continues to advise against cruising, dismaying the cruise lines

The CDC is holding firm on its warning that travelers should avoid cruising, frustrating the cruise lines, which say they have been held to too high a standard. 

The CDC updated its Covid-19 travel notice on Wednesday, keeping cruising at “Level 4: Very High,” the highest Covid-19 threat level. 

“The virus that causes Covid-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of you getting Covid-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are up to date with your Covid-19 vaccines,” reads a statement from the CDC.  

Cruise trade group CLIA said it is “dismayed” by the CDC’s decision not to budge off the Level 4 designation. CLIA spokeswoman Laziza Lambert said discouraging vaccinated people from cruising is “inexplicable.”

“This discounts the importance of what the CDC has otherwise promoted as the single most important touchstone for public health and safety — and is counter to what hard data shows as the cruise industry’s effectiveness unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting,” Lambert said.

CDC update takes boosters into account

The CDC also updated and clarified its Covid-19 program for cruise ships operating in U.S. waters, adding new tiers for level of vaccination on ships that require booster shots.  

Cruise ship vaccination status will now fall into one of three groups. “Not highly vaccinated” ships will have less than 95% of passengers and 95% of crew fully vaccinated. 

“Highly vaccinated” ships will have at least 95% of passengers and 95% of crew fully vaccinated, but have less than that percentage “up to date” with booster shots when applicable. 

“Vaccination Standard of Excellence” ships have at least 95% of passengers and 95% of crew fully vaccinated and boosted when applicable.   

The CDC recommends most individuals receive a booster dose at least five months after the last dose of the primary vaccination series, although those who took Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine are recommended to get booster shots after at least two months of vaccination.  

“It seems unnecessarily discriminatory against cruise to maintain that the chances of getting Covid-19 on a cruise is very high even if you are up to date with your Covid-19 vaccines,” read a statement from CLIA. 

The CDC is also urging cruise lines to continue to require guests and crew members to wear masks. The Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings brands (NCL, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas) announced this week that they will drop their mask mandates. Oceania spokesman Tim Rubacky said Thursday that “the latest CDC guidance is under review.” 

The details come almost a month after the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order of health and safety protocols for ships expired on Jan. 15.  

Cruise lines have until Feb. 18 to decide whether to opt into the updated Covid-19 program. Those that opt out of the program will be given a “grey status,” indicating the CDC cannot confirm the ship’s Covid-19 public health measures. 

CDC said new guidance will be reevaluated no later than March 18. 

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