The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is softening its guidance on cruise ship travel, citing a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases reported on vessels.
The CDC on Tuesday moved cruise ship travel to a level 3 health notice and now suggests travelers make sure they are “up to date” with their COVID-19 vaccines before cruising. People who are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are still advised to avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status.
The move comes after the agency in December raised cruise ship travel to a level 4 health notice and suggested travelers avoid cruising. At the time, the fast-spreading omicron variant was causing clusters of COVID-19 cases to emerge on vessels.
The CDC uses a four-level travel health notice system to alert travelers to health treats around the world. Level 4, the highest alert level, warns of “very high” COVID-19 levels.
CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey said the guidance was softened for vaccinated travelers in response to a decrease in COVID-19 cases on cruise ships operating in the United States.
“Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself from severe disease, slow the spread of COVID-19, and reduce the number of new variants,” the CDC says on its website. “If you are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, avoid cruise ship travel.”
BOOST AND CRUISE:CDC pushes for COVID boosters in new optional program for cruise lines
The CDC considers a traveler “up to date” on their COVID-19 vaccines if they have received all recommended vaccines, including any eligible booster doses.
The new guidance comes one week after the CDC updated its cruise guidelines, making adjustments to push for boosters among passengers.
Cruise Lines International Association, a cruise industry trade association, called the CDC’s decision “a step in the right direction.”
“Cruise ships have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated,” a statement from the association reads. “As a result, cases of COVID-19 are very low with the vast majority mild or asymptomatic—making cruise unequaled in its multilayered approach to effectively mitigating COVID-19.”
CRYSTAL CRUISE:Crystal Cruises is reportedly shutting down US operations: What happens to your bookings?
Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz†