By Marnie Hunter, CNN
Cruise travel no longer carries a CDC Covid-19 risk warning.
While the move doesn’t mean there is no risk of Covid-19 transmission on cruises, “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 US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.
The agency has dropped the popular means of travel from its list of travel health notices in what is undoubtedly a relief for a sector that has instituted some of the travel industry’s strictest Covid-19 precautions.
Industry group Cruise Lines International Association said the move “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.”
CLIA said its cruise line members “are sailing today with health measures in place that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting.”
The CDC still advises travelers to be up-to-date on their Covid-19 vaccinations before cruise travel.
It also advises travelers to consult with their doctors about additional precautions if they are immunocompromised or at higher risk for severe illness.
Cruise travel’s CDC status has come a long way in the past few months. Three months ago, on December 30, it was moved to the agency’s highest-risk Level 4 category of travel advisories as the Omicron variant brought a surge of cases that included a higher number of breakthrough infections.
Cruise travel dropped to Level 3, or “high” risk, in February and then to Level 2, “moderate” risk, where it was listed until it dropped out of the notices altogether on Wednesday.
Cruise ship precautions
Vaccination and testing requirements have been widespread on cruises since large ships resumed sailing from US ports in June 2021.
CDC rules under a conditional sailing order that expired in January required 95% of both passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated to sail in most circumstances, and some cruise lines have required vaccination for all passengers and crew.
After the CDC’s extended conditional sailing order expired In January, the agency transitioned to a voluntary opt-in program for foreign-flagged cruise ships operating in US waters.
The agency said Wednesday that it would continue to provide guidance to the cruise industry through that program.
Travelers are advised to check their cruise ship’s color code and vaccination status classification online before traveling. The CDC dashboard tracks Covid-19 cases reported for each ship in the program, whether a ship has opted out and other Covid-related information.
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Top image: A cruise ship waits for people to embark before leaving PortMiami on December 31, 2021, in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)