CDC updates guidelines and travel health notices for cruise industry

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new voluntary guidelines for the cruise industry on Wednesday.

According to the CDC’s official website, cruise lines have until Feb. 18 to sign up or opt out of the optional program, which replaced the conditional sailing order that expired Jan. 15.

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Optional CDC coronavirus program adds new ‘vaccination status’ level that gives cruise lines offering voyages with fully vaccinated crew members and passengers new options, including ‘highly vaccinated’ levels , “not highly vaccinated” and “gold standard in vaccination”.

To achieve the latest level of excellence, cruise ships must have at least 95% of passengers and crew able to show proof of a full COVID vaccination and any eligible boosters. Passengers who come into close contact with people who test positive for coronavirus must quarantine until at least five days after their last exposure instead of the previously prescribed 10 days.

While the latest changes are optional, cruise lines must share each ship’s vaccination status with the CDC, which will be posted on the agency’s website alongside each ship’s color status.

“Unfortunately, upon initial review, the latest CDC guidance appears out of step with actual public health conditions on cruise ships and unnecessary in light of societal trends away from more restrictive measures,” Cruise Lines said. International Association (CLIA).

“We are baffled by the CDC’s imposition of even more complex and unwarranted measures that ignore empirical evidence that industry protocols have provided a greater level of COVID mitigation than most other metrics,” continues the press release. “The CDC’s guidelines for tiered cruises are counterproductive for consumers, confusing the market between tiers, and potentially unworkable in practice.”

Other changes from the conditional sailing order to the new optional program include cruise lines no longer requiring CDC pre-approval for diagnostic and screening tests, with the agency removing the need for a negative air pressure in quarantine cabins and more.

Government officials said they would reassess the guidelines based on public health conditions and available scientific evidence by March 18 and update them if necessary.

In late December, the CDC raised its travel advisory for cruise ships from Level 3 to Level 4, warning passengers to avoid traveling by cruise ship regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status.

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