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

CLIA fires back after CDC posts new guidance for cruise lines

WASHINGTON, D.C. — CLIA has issued a statement in the wake of new guidelines released by the CDC.

According to USA Today, on Feb. 9 the CDC announced new guidelines for cruise lines, with a Feb. 18 deadline to opt-in. The guidelines include a new tier level for cruise ships.

  • ‘Highly vaccinated’: At least 95% of passengers and crew fully vaccinated
  • ‘Not highly vaccinated’: Less than 95% of passengers and crew fully vaccinated
  • ‘Vaccination standard of excellence’ (new): At least 95% of passengers and crew up to date with all possible COVID-19 vaccinations, including full vaccination plus booster shots where applicable

The new ‘Vaccination standard of excellence’ tier comes with shorter timeframes for isolation – 5 days – for passengers who test positive for COVID-19 or who are close contacts of COVID-19 passengers.

Ships are assigned a colour status according to the CDC’s colour-coding system.

The CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order expired Jan. 15, however the CDC maintains a Level 4 advisory against cruise travel.

Yesterday CLIA issued the following statement:

“The protocols adopted by every CLIA cruise-line member remain unequaled by other industries. Cruise lines are a model for adopting and employing highly effective, layered mitigation measures and have proven their effectiveness in a way that is unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting.

“Unlike any other travel, tourism, hospitality, or entertainment sector, cruise ships test all persons boarding, have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using only private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated.

“The result has been a dramatic drop in the number of COVID-positive cases, with hospitalizations being extraordinarily rare – in fact 80 times lower than on land in the U.S. As compared to all the other sectors which, ironically, are much larger, cater to magnitudes more patrons, and operate many more conveyances and facilities without testing and at only a fraction of the cruise industry’s vaccination rates, cruising has emerged as the safest venue for mitigating COVID-19.

“It is through this lens that we are reviewing the details of the guidelines released by the CDC on Feb. 9.

“Regrettably, upon initial review, the latest CDC guidance appears out of step with the actual public health conditions on cruise ships and unnecessary in light of societal trends away from more restrictive measures.

“We are confounded by the CDC’s imposition of even more complex and unwarranted measures which ignore empirical evidence that the industry’s protocols have provided a greater level of COVID mitigation than most any other setting.

“The CDC’s guidance for multitiered cruises is counterproductive to consumers, creating market confusion between the various tiers, and potentially unworkable in practice.

“CLIA and its members are fervently devoted to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting passengers, crew, and the public against any adverse health consequences.  The record of this unwavering commitment is extensive and irrefutable.

“Against this backdrop, we continue to be dismayed by the CDC’s decision to maintain any Travel Health Notice for cruise. CDC has long recognized the paramount importance of vaccination in protecting against COVID-19 and the vaccination rate on cruise ships is close to 100%, whereas on land it is only about 63%. 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. This discounts the importance of what the CDC has otherwise promoted as the single most important touchstone for public health and safety.

“The cruise industry remains one of the most highly regulated sectors even after the expiration of the Conditional Sailing Order. CLIA cruise line members will continue to comply with all applicable regulations. CLIA and its members are committed to continue working with the CDC in mutual, cooperative partnership as part of our shared commitment to putting health and safety first. Part and parcel of that goal is seeing signals from CDC that it recognizes the lengths the entire cruise industry has gone to and the success it has achieved in guarding against COVID-19.”