CDC Elevates Cruise Advisory Level – Their Statement & Our Response

The CDC today raised its travel health notice for cruise ships from level 3 to level 4. Here is a summary of the CDC’s statement and our response.

CDC Update

Here is a summary of the CDC release:

December 30, 2021

The COVID-19 Travel Health Notice level has been updated from Level 3 to Level 4, the highest level. This reflects increases in cases onboard cruise ships since identification of the Omicron variant.

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.

Please read the full CDC statement and details for more information.

Our Response

Premier Custom Travel fully agrees with the statement below from CLIA – Cruise Lines International Association. We will be discussing this matter in full detail on Tuesday night’s edition of THE ITINERARY, our weekly travel talk show on Facebook and YouTube.

Here is the full statement from CLIA:

CLIA Statement Regarding CDC Elevating to Level 4 Warning Against Cruise Travel (30 December 2021):

The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering 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. No setting can be immune from this virus—however, it is also the case that cruise provides one of the highest levels of demonstrated mitigation against the virus. Cruise ships offer a highly controlled environment with science-backed measures, known testing and vaccination levels far above other venues or modes of transportation and travel, and significantly lower incidence rates than land.

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. 

Additional Information:

  • Cruise industry protocols are unique in their approach to effectively monitor, detect, and respond to potential cases of COVID-19.
  • Protocols encompass the entirety of the cruise experience, incorporating testing, vaccination, screening, sanitation, mask-wearing and other science-backed measures.
  • Many of our members have announced additional measures in response to the Omicron variant, including strengthening testing, masking and other requirements, as well as encouraging booster vaccine doses for those eligible.
  • Over 100 cruise ships have returned to U.S. waters, carrying nearly more than one million people from a U.S. port since late June 2021.
  • The cruise industry is the only industry in the U.S. travel and tourism sector that is requiring both vaccinations and testing for crew and guests.
  • Vaccination rates onboard a cruise ship are upwards of 95 percent—significantly higher than the overall U.S. population which is hovering at 62 percent.
  • In the U.S. alone, the cruise industry administers nearly 10 million tests per week—21x the rate of testing in the United States.
  • The latest data show that, even with higher rates of testing, the cruise industry continues to achieve significantly lower rates of occurrence of COVID-19—33 percent lower than onshore.
  • According to the CDC’s color-coding system, a cruise ship may be determined to be “yellow” – and, therefore, subject to CDC observation – if a threshold of 0.10 percent or more passengers (i.e., 7 out of 6,500) have tested positive in the last seven days, or if even just one crewmember tests positive.

    Premier Custom Travel understands the goal of the CDC, like ours, is to make sure Americans are safe and to put an end to the pandemic. However, we disagree with some of their policies and the intense scrutiny the cruise industry receives in relation to other travel sectors. We also believe in safety first and also allowing our customers to make their own informed decisions regarding their travel plans. For those who wish to travel, we will be here to assist and we strongly recommend they only do so if fully vaccinated and, where possible, boosted. For those who wish to delay their travel, we will work with their suppliers to make that process as smooth as possible.