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Cruise Ship Guidelines Updated From CDC

— February 17, 2022

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its COVID recommendation for cruise ships.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines, termed the ‘conditional sailing order,’ that for cruise ships.  The new ship guidelines are termed COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships and include information about the vaccination status of passengers and crew members.

In the updated guidance, the agency asserts that it is best to “avoid cruise travel” and encourages individuals who are planning to board a ship to be fully vaccinated.  It describes three levels of vaccination status, including “Not highly vaccinated ships, with less than 95% of passengers and crew fully vaccinated; highly vaccinated ships, with at least 95% of passengers and crew fully vaccinated but less than 95% with up-to-date vaccines, including boosters and the vaccination standard of excellence, which includes ships with 95% of passengers and crew fully vaccinated and boosted.”

Photo by Matthew Barra from Pexels

Passengers must have a positive COVID-19 test and participating cruise lines must follow all the new recommendations and notify the CDC of the vaccination status classification for each ship.  Those that are included in the new program are assigned a color on the CDC’s Cruise Ship Color Status page.  Ships with a green status don’t have any reported COVID-19 cases.  Those with a yellow status have cases but are below the CDC’s threshold for investigation (i.e., .3% of total passengers and crew members).  Ships with an orange status are investigated.  A red status indicates ongoing transmission, and all passengers could be required to test during or after the cruise.

Passengers on ships with the “vaccination standard of excellence” status must do a five-day quarantine after coronavirus exposure and wear a mask for five more days.  In all other categories, passengers are required to quarantine for at least ten days.

“Travelers who have COVID-19 symptoms must isolate right away and take a COVID-19 test, regardless of vaccination status,” the CDC indicates.  Furthermore, “Cruise lines operating in U.S. waters choosing not to participate in the program (opting out) are requested to notify CDC’s Maritime Unit in writing at by February 18, 2022.  Cruise lines that do not notify CDC’s Maritime Unit by February 18, 2022, will be considered to have opted out of this program.  Cruise lines that decide to opt out will have any cruise ships operating in U.S. waters listed as ‘Gray” ships on CDC’s Cruise Ship Color Status webpage.  This designation means that CDC has neither reviewed nor confirmed the cruise ship operator’s health and safety protocols.”

By color-coding each of the ships, the agency hopes that passengers will make an informed decision when booking a cruise.  Being on a ship means that passengers will be in close quarters with one another, and if the line doesn’t follow sufficient safety protocols, this could mean that a high number of individuals will become infected.

The CDC has shared that twenty cruise ships have so far agreed to join the program, which is an extension of the already existing guidelines that the CDC has posted on its website.  The agency says, “Cruise lines choosing to opt into this program on a voluntary basis will be required to follow all recommendations and guidance as a condition of their participation in the program.”


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