Ever since the pandemic set in and disrupted every facet of modern life, it’s been a long road back to something approaching normality.
While all industries were hit by the spread of Covid-19, the vacation sector was hit especially hard, and within that space, the cruise line industry ground to a halt for more than a year, at least in America, where ports were shut down.
As TheStreet has noted, cruise lines generally flag their ships in America, in order to workaround American labor laws. This gives the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more sway over the cruise industry than it has over perhaps any other form of travel.
As vaccinations started to roll out last year, major cruise-line players such as Royal Caribbean ( (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report), Carnival Cruise Lines ( (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report) and Norwegian Cruise Line ( (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report) last July began taking steps to make Americans feel safe cruising again, spending millions in the process.
But many cruise fans were nonetheless upset, feeling that the CDC was only begrudgingly allowing cruises to set sail again. Last year the agency still warned people against taking cruises, labeling them a level 4 “high risk” activity.
But earlier this year, the CDC put down a set of rules for cruise lines to follow if they wanted to continue to operate, which Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian voluntarily agreed to.
These measures included requiring 95% of passengers who were eligible to be vaccinated to get the shot before sailing, with the same requirement for crews. (100% are vaccinated on all three cruise lines.) These stipulations allowed Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian to make wearing masks onboard voluntary.
Now, the CDC has softened its stance. Two weeks ago it lowered its risk warning to a level 2 “moderate” risk. And now it’s taken an even bigger step that should delight both fans and owners of cruise ships.
What Has The CDC Done Now?
The CDC has now eliminated its pandemic-related Cruise Travel Health Notices for cruise passengers, and has also eliminated all risk warnings.
Basically, you are now free to cruise your heart out. But the CDC does have a few requirements because that’s just how life is these days.
Scroll to Continue
“The CDC’s removal of its health notice related to cruise travel is an important step forward in recognizing the work we have done to protect our guests,’ said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line, in a statement to Cruise Critic.
“At Holland America Line, we continue to operate vaccinated cruises and have created a safe and healthy environment for our guests, our teams, and the communities we serve, helping to ensure cruising is among the safest forms of socializing and travel.”
So What Does This Mean For Cruise Fans?
All three of the major cruise lines have opted in to the current program, which means that masks are now optional onboard.
All three will require proof of vaccination, for anyone old enough to be vaccinated, and a negative test no more than two days before sailing.
The CDC also suggests that if you are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, you should discuss with your health-care provider what additional precautions you should take.
Additionally, the CDC recommends that potential cruises check their ship’s color and vaccination status before setting sail. “Color status designations indicate the number of Covid-19 cases reported for each ship in the program,” according to the CDC.
Cruise ships that are designated gray are foreign-flagged cruise ships operating in U.S. waters that have chosen not to participate in CDC’s Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships. These ships may have their own Covid-19 health and safety protocols, which the CDC has not reviewed or confirmed.