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CDC Lowers COVID-19 Risk Level for Cruising to "Moderate"

cruise at miami
portmiamiCruise ships at PortMiami, 2016 (Corey Seeman / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Published Mar 15, 2022 9:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reduced its COVID-19 risk assessment for cruise ships to the lowest level since the beginning of the pandemic. It now assesses that cruising is a "Level 2" or "moderate" COVID risk, down from the Level 4 risk warning it maintained as recently as January. 

The label is driven by the number of cases reported by the industry over the course of the past 14 days, and Level 2 corresponds to about 500-1000 instances, according to the Washington Post. CDC still recommends a full course of vaccination prior to travel, and it recommends against cruising for people who have an increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness. 

Passengers can check the status of specific cruise ships through the CDC's online tracking portal. The database shows that half of the vessels that submit data to CDC have not had a reported infection in two weeks - a major improvement over the numbers seen in early January, when cases were reported aboard every U.S.-based cruise ship with revenue passengers. The high case rate did not correspond to high rates of illness and hospitalization, however, likely due to the spread of the less-harmful omicron variant. 

CDC has switched to a voluntary reporting model for cruise ship COVID-19 cases, but the change appears to have had little effect on the rate of operator participation. 112 out of the 113 vessels in the U.S. market are still submitting data, and the only vessel that has opted out is a small 200-passenger inland cruise vessel, according to CDC.

In a related move which may aid the cruise industry, on Monday the CDC also lowered its COVID risk warning level for nine popular travel destinations in the Caribbean. It now assesses that Jamaica, St. Kitts, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten, the British Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos, and the Dominican Republic have a "Level 3" risk level, down from "Level 4." 

Top image: Cruise ships at PortMiami, 2016 (Corey Seeman / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)