The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Thursday that people should avoid cruise travel regardless of their vaccination status after an increase in COVID-19 cases on cruise lines in recent days.
The CDC on Thursday increased its COVID-19 risk level for cruise ships to four, which is the agency’s highest warning level.
“Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants,” the federal agency said in a statement. Passengers should get tested three to five days after their cruise ends, the CDC said, adding that they need to self-monitor for COVID-19-related symptoms for 14 days.
According to the latest guidance, the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, “spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.”
The guidance also stipulated that individuals on cruise ships should wear a mask “in shared spaces.”
Most of the major cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival require customers and staff to be fully vaccinated. They have to present proof of vaccination status before boarding.
“Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to CDC. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the COVID-19 case threshold for CDC investigation,” the CDC said.
As of Wednesday, about 88 ships are under the CDC’s “yellow” status, meaning the agency is investigating. Another four are being monitored.
“Yellow status means the ship has met the threshold for CDC investigation, which includes one of the following criteria” such as “at or above the investigation threshold for crew COVID-19 cases,” at or above the investigation threshold for passenger COVID-19 cases,” or a “state or local health department notified CDC of passenger COVID-19 cases occurring within five days of disembarkation,” the agency said.
Over the past weekend, Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Freedom told outlets it has been forced to alter its stops in the south Caribbean after several individuals onboard tested positive for the CCP virus.
“This is a vaccinated cruise, and all guests were also tested before embarkation,” Carnival Cruise Lines said on Dec. 24. “Unfortunately, Bonaire and Aruba authorities did not permit the ship to call in those ports, but we have confirmed a visit to Amber Cove, [Dominican Republic] today.”