CDC no longer warning travelers about risk of contracting COVID on cruise ships after 2 years

Morgan Hines
USA TODAY

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped its risk assessment of cruise travel Wednesday after more than two years of warning travelers against the dangers of contracting COVID-19 on a cruise amid the pandemic.

"CDC is removing the COVID-19 Cruise Ship Travel Health Notice," spokesperson Dave Daigle, spokesperson for the health agency, told USA TODAY.

"Travel Health Notices" are issued by the CDC to inform travelers about current health issues that could impact travelers' health such as outbreaks and natural disasters among others.

The removal of the notice doesn't mean that the agency considers the activity to be without any risk. 

"Travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings," Daigle said.

Daigle added that the CDC's decision to remove the notice was based on the pandemic's current state and a decrease in coronavirus cases on cruise ships over "the past several weeks."

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Cruise Lines International Association, the industry's leading trade group, applauded the CDC's decision to remove the health notice.

"Today's decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 and similarly situated venues on land, for the first time since March 2020," the cruise line association said in a statement shared by Laziza Lambert, the group's director of strategic communications and public affairs.

The announcement comes just over two weeks after the CDC lowered its risk assessment level of cruise travel from "Level 3" to "Level 2" indicating a moderate COVID-19 risk.

Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas gets underway through the Government Cut shipping channel at PortMiami during the first U.S. trial cruise testing COVID-19 protocols on June 20, 2021, in Miami.

CDC still offering guidance to cruises on COVID-19

Earlier this month, the CDC also published an update to its guidance for cruise ships participating in the health agency's COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, which remains in effect, Daigle said. 

The health agency recommends travelers stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines before traveling on cruise ships and follow cruise line requirements and recommendations.

Daigle added that the CDC also advises travelers to check on the color code of the ship they plan to sail on which indicates the ship's vaccination status, whether it is under investigation by the agency for COVID-19 and what public health measures each ship is taking. Travelers can also determine if the ship they plan to sail on has opted out of the CDC's program. 

While it's optional, 108 cruise ships had opted in and only one opted out of participation as of Wednesday.