After Two Years, CDC Lifts its "Travel Health Notice" for Cruising

cruise ships at canaveral
File image courtesy Port Canaveral

Published Mar 30, 2022 10:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) has dropped its COVID-19 "travel health notice" warning for cruise ships, two years after the pandemic began. The move is the latest in a series of moves to relax COVID-related restrictions on cruising, and it represents a long-anticipated relief for the cruise industry. 

"Today's decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to altogether remove the Travel Health Notice for cruising recognizes the effective public health measures in place on cruise ships," said the Cruise Lines International Association in a statement. "[It] begins to level the playing field, between cruise and similarly situated venues on land, for the first time since March 2020."

The CDC's voluntary guidance for cruise ship operators on COVID-19 prevention still remains in effect, and the agency still maintains a color-coded list of all cruise ships operating in the U.S. and their recent infection status. Virtually all ships in U.S. operation (save one) are participating in the CDC's case tracking program. 

The rate of new onboard infections has fallen in recent months, allowing the CDC to gradually lift restrictions. In February, it dropped the risk category for cruise ships from Level 4 (the highest) to Level 3 (high), then down to Level 2 (moderate) in March. The latest move removes cruising from the risk list for travel. 

CDC still recommends that cruise passengers get up to date with their vaccination status before they sail, and the major cruise lines still require a "full course" of vaccination for cruising in North America. CDC also advises travelers to check on the color code of their specific ship before embarking.