CDC says to avoid travel on cruise ships, regardless of vaccination status

Cruise ship
Posted at 1:25 PM, Dec 30, 2021

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that travelers avoid cruise ships, regardless of vaccination status.

The CDC updated cruise ships' travel health notice levels from Level 3 to its highest level, Level 4.

The new CDC guidance comes as the highly-contagious omicron variant spreads across the country, leading some hospital systems to become overtaxed with patients.

"The virus that 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 CDC's update said.

The new guidance came after the agency said Wednesday that 88 vessels were either under investigation or observation for potential COVID-19 outbreaks. The CDC did not specify how many cases have been reported.

None of the ships appeared to have so many cases they would overwhelm medical resources on board and require a return to port, but some have been denied entry at some foreign ports.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal called for the CDC and cruise lines to again halt cruise travel six months after the industry mounted its comeback.

The Cruise Lines International Association did not hide its disappointment Thursday, writing in a statement that it disagreed with the CDC's decision.

"The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard--far fewer than on land--and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore," the statement read.

In the statement, the CLIA said the decision singled out the cruise industry, even though the industry goes "above and beyond" compared to other travel sectors in its steps to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.

To read the CLIA's press release in its entirety, click here.

LEX 18 spoke with a man from Lexington who recently returned from a cruise with his boyfriend. Before boarding Celebrity Cruises' Silhouette for a 12-day trip, they had to provide proof of their vaccination status and produce a negative COVID-19 test.

"That made me feel like it was as safe as it could be," Paul Prater said.

Prater said that during the cruise, only one passenger fell ill with COVID-19. He said staff was vigilant about enforcing health protocols, like mask-wearing and hand sanitizing.

"And they cleaned like crazy," Prater said. "Every time you turned around, somebody was cleaning something, wiping something. There was an attendant in every bathroom cleaning. The rooms were disinfected twice a day."

Prater said that he was nervous before the trip, but was pleased with how everything was handled amid a pandemic.

"I would go on another cruise right now," he said. "It wouldn't really bother me."