Just days after announcing a new voluntary COVID-19 program and maintaining that cruise ships represented a Level 4 travel risk, the CDC has lowered the Travel Health Notice to a Level 3.
What The Change Means
The Level 3 advisory is not exactly an “all clear.” What it does mean, however, is that the risk level associated with cruising has been lowered from “very high” to “high.” The CDC says that getting vaccinated is still “the best way to protect yourself” against both COVID and its variants. They also advise that those who are unvaccinated should not be cruising, and that those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID should not board, even if they are vaccinated.
Elsewhere, the CDC says that the travel health notice for ships “represents the status of the… pandemic at this time.” They warn that those booking future travel should “be aware that the level may change” as the health crisis around the world develops. As a result, the threat level could be different by the time a pre-booked cruise rolls around.
All of this comes as the February 18th deadline for cruise lines to opt into the CDC’s latest voluntary program rapidly approaches. That program will allow lines who participate to opt-in at either the Vaccinated Standard of Excellence level (which requires that 95 percent of passengers and crew have received both vaccines and booster shots); the “Highly Vaccinated” level (which requires 95 percent of passengers and crew to have been vaccinated but does not require boosters); or the “Not Highly Vaccinated” level, which means less than 95 percent of passengers and crew have been vaccinated.
Cruise lines also have the option of not taking part in the voluntary program.
“Step In the Right Direction”
In a statement, the Cruise Lines International Association said that the CDC’s decision was “a step in the right direction.” They added that the move “recognizes the leadership and effectiveness of the cruise sector’s health and safety protocols that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting.”
CLIA went on to say that cruise lines “have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated. As a result, cases of COVID-19 are very low with the vast majority mild or asymptomatic, making cruise unequaled in its multi-layered approach to effectively mitigating COVID-19.”
Both those within the cruise industry and its fans have long claimed that the CDC has taken an unfair stance toward ships. They have repeatedly pointed out that cruise ships are held to a standard not put upon hotels, airlines, or other sectors of the travel industry.