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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States updated its website on Cruise Ship Guidance and announced the removal of the monitoring of the COVID-19 protocols for cruises in the country.
The agency stated: “As of July 18, 2022, CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is no longer in effect and this page will no longer be updated. New guidance for cruise ships to mitigate and manage COVID-19 transmission will be available in the coming days. For more information, please see the cruise travel.”
In March, the CDC had already removed travel advisories for cruises —meaning that vaccinated travelers were no longer advised to avoid cruises—, but the agency still monitored cruises and suggested a Covid-19 program.
Under the CDC covid-19 guidelines for cruises, cruise companies were advised to follow recommendations, and the agency supervised cruises and assigned vessels different colors depending on risks and covid cases detected onboard. Ships could also apply for the agency’s three voluntary programs: Not Highly Vaccinated, Highly Vaccinated, and Vaccination Standard of Excellence.
Now, the CDC will only provide guidance and suggestions, and cruises have the right to choose their own COVID-19 protocols.
What does it mean for travelers?
Cruise companies are no longer required to comply with the CDC’s programs, and have now the freedom to decide what the protocols on board will be. Travelers will now have to follow each cruise line’s rules and requirements and not the CDC’s advice.
Since the CDC’s update was recently shared —and surprised many in the industry—, cruise lines have not yet pronounced statements or changes related to this new announcement. Cruise companies will have to define what will be the best protocols for their own vessels, considering the routes, passengers, and even their own infrastructure and current sanitary measures.
The cruise industry is heading back to a “normal” experience, and probably travelers —vaccinated and non-vaccinated— will have fewer restrictions and fewer covid-testing requirements very soon.
Cruise Protocols Are Changing
Large cruise companies that made constant efforts to comply with the CDC’s programs might soon make changes and will probably be more flexible with travel requirements.
For example, the CDC’s requirements for cruises operating in US waters to be considered “Vaccination Standard of Excellence” or “Highly Vaccinated Ship” were exigent and precise, like “at least 95% of crew and 90% of passengers fully vaccinated or up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines”.
Meeting the suggested standards used to give cruise companies green categories and higher approval, but this is already changing.
Princess Cruises, the Carnival Corporation Brand, has already recently updated its protocol to expand options for unvaccinated travelers and ease restrictions despite the CDC’s program in the United States.
The company stated: “At Princess, we want to make your vacation as easy, hassle-free, and safe as possible. We respect that every guest has choices, and regardless of your vaccination status, we have amazing vacations for you to enjoy.”
Also, a few days ago, major cruise lines like Norweigan Cruises, Holland America, and P&O Cruises announced the removal of the pre-departure testing requirement.
Destinations Still Affect Restrictions
Travelers must remember that now COVID-19 restrictions will change in the United States and cruise companies will decide their own rules, but other countries still have strict demands and local measures that have to be respected.
Princess Cruises, in its recent update, also reminded travelers that the new flexible program does not apply to cruises stopping in Canada: “Please note that cruises that begin, end or visit Canada will require sailing guests ages 12 and above who are not Canadian citizens be fully vaccinated, unless they are granted a medical exemption.”
Vessels visiting the Caribbean must comply with local restrictions. Popular destinations like Antigua and Barbuda still required travelers to be vaccinated to disembark and provide a negative covid test, while Aruba, the Bahamas, and Barbados welcome unvaccinated travelers.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.