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CDC Lowers Cruise Travel Warnings, Reflecting Vaccination Progress

CDC lowers warnings on cruise travel
PortMiami before the pandemic

Published Jun 17, 2021 5:41 PM by The Maritime Executive

Nearly a year and a half after advising against all cruise travel, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its guidance reflecting the increasing percentage of the population that has been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Dividing its guidance for those who are and are not vaccinated, the CDC, however, continues with its overall policy which place it in opposition to Florida and Texas which banned vaccine passports and are suing to end the CDC’s restrictions on cruise ships sailing from U.S. ports.

“CDC recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide,” writes the CDC in a travel notice posted to its website on June 16. “Since the virus spreads more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships, the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high. It is especially important that people who are not fully vaccinated with an increased risk of severe illness avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises.”

The CDC lowered the overall risk assessment one level to three on a scale of unknown to four. The posting also specified that the notice is for travelers who are not fully vaccinated. They are continuing to advise testing both before and after a trip and that non-vaccinated travels should quarantine when they return home after their cruise. While aboard the cruise, the CDC recommends social distancing and handwashing, and reiterates for all passengers, including those that are vaccinated, masks are required in all crowded and indoor spaces.

The update in guidance comes as the CDC continues to defend itself in a suit brought by Florida along with Alaska and Texas changing that the CDC has overstepped its authority and is unfairly singling out the cruise industry for harsher restrictions. Florida and Texas argued to the court that they are suffering significant harm in the form of lost tax revenues and unemployment due to the cruise restrictions.

Last week, the federal district judge in the case heard new arguments in the case after a mediator reported to the court that they had failed to find a settlement between the two sides. Florida is asking the judge to impose a temporary restraining order due to the harm to the state to immediately lift all restrictions on cruising from U.S. ports. The judge has promised a swift ruling on the injunction, but extended the deadline in the broader case, giving the CDC additional time to respond to Florida’s arguments.

The cruise industry, however, is continuing to move forward with its efforts to restart sailing. Today, Princess Cruises became the latest large ship operator to detail plans for sailings from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Fort Lauderdale this fall. Cruise lines, including Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International, detailed plans for cruises starting in July from Florida and Texas and multiple cruise lines plan to operate from Seattle to Alaska.