The Centers for Disease Control has issued a warning for Americans regarding cruise ship travel as the omicron virus spreads worldwide. The CDC warns that due to the ineffectiveness of vaccinations and boosters to stop the spread of the virus, Americans should not travel aboard cruise ships regardless of their vaccination status.
Even if you are fully vaccinated and boosted, you are at risk of being infected by the COVID-19 omicron variant and able to spread the virus to others, including other fully vaccinated and boosted individuals.
Below is a bulletin issued this week by the CDC:
- Avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status.
- Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.
- The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.
- 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.
- People on cruise ships should wear a mask to keep their nose and mouth covered when in shared spaces. While CDC is exercising its enforcement discretion under CDC’s Mask Order to not require that persons wear a mask under certain circumstances on board foreign-flagged cruise ships subject to the Temporary Extension & Modification of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), including onboard cruise ships choosing to follow the requirements of the CSO on a voluntary basis, individual cruise lines may require travelers (passengers and crew) to wear masks on board the ship.
Avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status. 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. Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself from severe disease, slow the spread of COVID-19, and reduce the number of new variants. People who are not fully vaccinated should follow additional recommendations before, during, and after travel.
What is the current situation?
Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to CDC. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the COVID-19 case threshold for CDC investigation (i.e., Yellow status on the Cruise Ship Color Status webpage).
CDC has temporarily extended the CSO through January 15, 2022, with minor modifications. The CSO, as modified, applies to foreign-flagged cruise ships operating or seeking to operate in U.S. waters. U.S.-flagged cruise ships previously covered by the CSO may continue to participate voluntarily. Passenger operations have now resumed on cruise ships. As modified, the CSO aligns with current public health considerations and other factors onboard cruise ships. Information about the COVID-19 status of ships sailing under the CSO is available on CDC’s website.
As of July 23, 2021, the CSO and accompanying measures, such as technical instructions, are nonbinding recommendations for cruise ships arriving in, located within, or departing from a port in Florida. CDC is continuing to operate the CSO as a voluntary program for such ships that choose to follow the CSO measures voluntarily in Florida.
What can cruise travelers do to protect themselves and others?
CDC recommends that travelers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19—and get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose if eligible—prior to traveling on a cruise ship.
You are considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks (14 days) after an accepted single-dose vaccine
- 2 weeks (14 days) after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series
- 2 weeks (14 days) after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial
- 2 weeks (14 days) after you received 2 doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart±
If you don’t meet these requirements, you are NOT fully vaccinated. Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.
A person who has received only one dose of an accepted 2-dose series and has recovered from COVID-19 does not meet this definition, and therefore is NOT considered fully vaccinated.
If you have a medical condition that weakens your immune system or are taking medication that weakens your immune system, you might NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider. Even after vaccination, you may need to continue taking all precautions.
±CDC has not recommended the use of mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine primary series. However, such strategies are increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the of purpose of interpreting vaccination records for travel to the United States, CDC will accept combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines.
It is especially important that travelers who are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, regardless of vaccination status.
If you are at increased risk for severe illness and considering cruise travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, discuss this type of travel with your healthcare professional. Older adults and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are more likely to get severely ill if they get COVID-19. People with weakened immune systems, including people who take medicines that suppress their immune systems, may not be protected even if fully vaccinated.
Do not board a cruise ship if you have symptoms of COVID-19, if you know you have COVID-19, if you were exposed to a person with COVID-19 in the past 14 days (unless you are fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days), or you are waiting for results of a COVID-19 viral test.
Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs (such as airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations, seaports, U.S. ports of entry, and other places where people board public transportation in the U.S. and U.S. territories). Wearing a mask is not required in outdoor areas of transportation conveyances or while outdoors at transportation hubs. However, travelers should consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
If you go on a cruise during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Before you board:
- Get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose, if eligible.
- Get tested with a COVID-19 viral test 1–3 days before your departure, even if you are fully vaccinated.
- If you test positive, isolate and do NOT travel.
- Get travel insurance. Make sure you have a plan to get care overseas, in case you need it. Consider buying additional insurance that covers health care and emergency evacuation, especially if you will be traveling to remote areas.
While you’re on board:
- Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when in shared spaces.
- Stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you. Do this everywhere—both indoors and outdoors.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
- Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay in your cabin and notify the onboard medical center immediately.
If you are returning to an international port or disembarking an international river cruise:
- Your return travel plans may be affected. Foreign health officials may implement formal quarantine procedures if they identify a case of COVID-19 aboard your cruise ship.
- If you travel on a cruise ship or river cruise and disembark in a foreign port, you might not be able to receive appropriate medical care or be medically evacuated if you get sick.
- Some countries might refuse to dock your ship or allow passengers to disembark.
If you travel to the United States by air:
- Before boarding a flight to the United States, you are required to show a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 1 day before travel, regardless of vaccination status.
- Children under 2 years old do not need to test. There is also an option for people who have documented recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
- All non-U.S. citizen, non-U.S. immigrants traveling to the United States by air are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Only limited exceptions apply. Learn more about this requirement.
After you disembark:
- Get tested 3–5 days after your trip.
- If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
- Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after travel; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms, regardless of vaccination status.
- If you are not fully vaccinated, in addition to the recommendations above:
- Stay home and self-quarantine for a full 5 days after cruise travel, even if you do not have symptoms.
Information for people who recently recovered from COVID-19
- If you tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 3 months and met criteria to end isolation, you do NOT need to get tested before or after cruise travel unless you have symptoms. CDC has found that people can continue to test positive for up to 3 months after they had COVID-19 and not be infectious to others.
- Travel with a copy of your positive test result and a letter from your healthcare or a public health official that states you have been cleared for travel. The positive test result and letter together are referred to as “documentation of recovery.” If you are asked by officials in a foreign country, you may be required to show this documentation.
- You also do NOT need to self-quarantine after cruise travel if you have recently (within the past 3 months) recovered from COVID-19, even if you are not fully vaccinated.
- If you develop new symptoms of COVID-19, self-isolate and consult with a healthcare provider for testing recommendations.