CDC Pulls Back COVID-19 Warning System for Cruise Ships

The coast is now clear for those traveling on cruise ships.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally dropped its COVID-19 warning system for cruise ships, a tiered system that had been in place for more than 18 months.

Before Wednesday’s announcement, cruise passengers were routinely subject to color-coded alerts that ranged from moderate to high.

The system may have served the public, but it also could have been a deterrent to cruise attendance.

According to CruiseHive.com, a site that tracks the cruise-line industry, the prominent cruise carriers incurred a 77% revenue drop in 2020, along with a 78% reduction in guest count. And according to Statista, 2021 cruise-line revenue worldwide was less than half the growth projection for 2022.

That speaks well for the immediate future, even if things don’t reach the peak numbers of 2019. According to reports, the Big Three cruise lines — Carnival Corp,, Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. — combined for $38.4 billion in revenue three years ago.

Passengers are able to make their own judgments with cruise travel, mirroring the United States’ prevailing attitude shift toward COVID-19, in terms of living freely and responsibly, minus government recommendations or even interference.

“While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings,” the CDC said in a statement to The Hill.

Cruisegoers are still encouraged to get vaccinated before their trips. The CDC subscribes to the notion that unvaccinated people are more susceptible to severe COVID illness.

According to The Hill, the CDC will continue to track the percentage of cruise passengers who are vaccinated, along with the number of coronavirus cases reported on board. 

For what it’s worth, most cruise ships require passengers to be vaccinated anyway, or at least provide a negative COVID-19 test before boarding.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships,” the CDC said in its most recent advisory. “If the virus is spreading on board a cruise ship, passengers and crew are at risk for infection, even if they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.”

Tje Cruise Lines International Association, the industry’s largest trade group, supports the CDC’s minimization of the COVID warning system. 

According to The Hill, the group believes that removing travel health notices “recognizes the effective public health measures in place on cruise ships and begins to level the playing field, between cruise and similarly situated venues on land, for the first time since March 2020.”

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