CDC finally drops Cruise Ship Travel Health Notice, to industry cheers

CLIA issues statement as CDC lowers cruise travel warning

MIAMI — The CDC in the U.S. has lowered its Travel Health Notice for cruises from Level 4 (Very High) to Level 3 (High).

Under the new Level 3 guidelines, U.S. cruise travellers are encouraged to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines prior to travel, and if not, to avoid cruising altogether. If they are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, they should avoid cruising even if they are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.

Previously, under Level 4, the CDC was recommending U.S. travellers to avoid all cruise ship travel.

Although the CDC recognizes an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew as a result of the Omicron variant, it also acknowledges an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the COVID-19 case threshold for CDC investigation.

After the CDC’s Temporary Extension & Modification of Framework for the Condition Sailing Order (CSO) expired on Jan. 15, it launched a new voluntary COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships that includes recommendations for ships to operate safely in the midst of COVID-19. Ships that choose not to participate in the program will be designated as ‘Gray’ on CDC’s Cruise Ship Color Status webpage. This means CDC has neither reviewed nor confirmed the ship operator’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Cruise lines have until Feb. 18, 2022 to opt into the program.

In response to the lowering of the travel health notice, CLIA issued a statement, applauding the CDC’s move.

“The decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lower the Travel Health Notice threat level for cruise ships is a step in the right direction, and recognizes the leadership and effectiveness of the cruise sector’s health and safety protocols that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting,” read the statement.

“Cruise ships have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated. As a result, cases of COVID-19 are very low with the vast majority mild or asymptomatic, making cruise unequalled in its multi-layered approach to effectively mitigating COVID-19,” CLIA concluded.

Meanwhile here in Canada the travel advisory for cruise ship travel is still at Level 4, with Canadians advised to avoid all cruise ship travel outside of Canada. At yesterday’s government briefing, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra promised an update on cruising soon, and said work is underway to ensure that Canada’s 2022 cruise season would go ahead. However there was no word on Canada’s Level 4 cruise travel advisory. ACTA President Wendy Paradis says ACTA is working to confirm whether the Level 4 advisory against all cruise travel abroad will ease in the coming days or weeks.