CDC Says Everyone, Including Vaccinated, Should Avoid Cruises

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told all Americans — including those who have already received COVID-19 vaccines — to “avoid cruise travel.”

On Thursday, the agency hiked its COVID-19 Travel Health Notice from Level 3 to Level 4 — the highest level — reflecting “increases in cases onboard cruise ships since identification of the Omicron variant.” Among other guidelines, the CDC said:

  • Avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.
  • Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships.
  • If you travel on a cruise ship, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel and get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose if you are eligible.
  • People who go on a cruise should get tested 1–3 days before their trip and 3–5 days after their trip, regardless of vaccination status or symptoms.
  • Along with testing, passengers who are not fully vaccinated should self-quarantine for a full 5 days after cruise travel. 

As The Wall Street Journal reported, shares of Norwegian Cruise Line were 1.48% lower amid Thursday trading, while Carnival fell by 0.79% and Royal Caribbean fell by 0.12%. Meanwhile, the Cruise Lines International Association — a trade group that represents all three firms — issued a statement arguing that the CDC is unfairly targeting the industry.

The group’s statement, as The Wall Street Journal recorded, said that “cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard — far fewer than on land — and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore.”

“While we are disappointed and disagree with the decision to single out the cruise industry — an industry that continues to go above and beyond compared to other sectors — CLIA and our ocean-going cruise line members remain committed to working collaboratively with the CDC in the interest of public health and safety,” the statement continued.

The CDC’s strict guidelines for cruise ships come as airlines cancel thousands of flights amid labor shortages. For instance, JetBlue nixed 1,280 flights between December 30 and January 13.

“We have seen a surge in the number of sick calls from Omicron,” a JetBlue spokesman said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “We entered the holiday season with the highest staffing levels we’ve had since the pandemic began and are using all resources available to cover our staffing needs.”

“This past week has been one of our most difficult operating periods during the pandemic,” three JetBlue department leaders wrote on Tuesday in a note to staff seen by CNBC. “The exponential growth in Omicron cases over just a couple of days is at a level that no one could reasonably prepare for.”

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