CDC Eases Restrictions on Shore Excursions, Cruise Ship Experiences

Cruising out of the United States is looking more and more like it did before the pandemic, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention once again easing its guidance for passenger vessels.

Over the past few weeks, the CDC lowered its risk level for cruising from Level 4 – highest risk – to Level 3 and then Level 2, representing ‘moderate risk.’

Now the CDC has made more changes to its guidance for lines that have opted into its COVID-19 cruise program – which represents the majority of ships cruising from United States ports.

CDC headquarters
(Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The changes apply to “vaccination standard of excellence” ships, where at least 95 percent of passengers and crew are fully vaccinated and boosted, and “highly vaccinated” ships, where at least 95 percent of passengers and crew are fully vaccinated.

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The agency’s updated guidance enables the restart or more relaxed operation of a variety of cruise activities, including shore excursions and shipboard experiences like culinary classes and galley tours. 

A requirement for physical distancing during shore excursions and transportation is now just a recommendation for ships under the CDC voluntary program, all of which require a high level of vaccination.

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Cruise ships in Nassau, Bahamas

Another change means that close contacts of COVID-positive guests may be permitted to remain in their original stateroom if they are disembarking within 36 hours.

Cruise Lines International Association welcomed the update, calling it an acknowledgment of “the effectiveness of the cruise lines in their ability to create an environment that provides one of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation and reflect the improvements in the public health landscape.”

Last June, the first major cruise line resumed sailings from the United States when Celebrity Edge departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise.

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