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CDC Issues Level 4 ‘Very High Risk’ For All Cruise Travel

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The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for travelers on Thursday, advising them not to board a cruise ship at this time, even if they’ve been fully vaccinated. The official advisory was raised from a Level 3 to a Level 4, which is a “Very High” risk warning.

This week’s travel update comes after over 5,000 Covid cases were detected onboard cruise ships running in U.S. waters between December 15 and December 29th. Cases were detected amongst passengers and crew, and it was a drastic increase from the first two weeks of December, when a total of 162 cases were reported.

person carrying a backpack and wearing a hat walking towards a ship to board a cruise

According to the agency’s website, more cruise ships are meeting the CDC’s case threshold for investigation due to the recent spike in cases. The agency is currently monitoring over 90 cruise ships.

“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,” the agency said in a statement following the recent travel advisory update.

woman with a mask on and holding a sun hat on the deck of a ship on a cruise

CDC’S Guidance Updated From A Level 3 Warning, Issued In June

After over a year of shutdown, a number of cruises set sail this past summer while others are taking a break until 2022.

On June 17, the CDC lowered its advisory for cruise travel that was put in place at the beginning of the pandemic from a Level 4 to a Level 3. Some major U.S. cruise lines updated their guidance for travelers to prepare for operations.

close up of a health care worker wearing blue protective gloves holding a covid test

Do I Need To Get Tested Before Taking A Cruise?

Among the guidelines, cruise ships travelers are advised to be fully vaccinated and take a Covid test a few days prior to boarding the ship.

Here’s a breakdown of the CDC’s official guidance for all cruise ship travelers:

  • Even fully vaccinated travelers are still at risk of catching and/or transmitting the virus while on board a cruise ship
  • Those travelers eligible for a booster shot should get one prior to travel
  • People should get a Covid test 1-3 days prior to boarding a cruise ship
  • All persons should take another test 3-5 after the cruise, even if fully vaccinated and showing no symptoms
  • Unvaccinated persons should self-isolate for at least 5 days following cruise travel
  • People on board a cruise should wear a face mask over their mouth and nose in all common areas of the ship
Cruise Ship Downtown Port of Miami Florida

How Risky Is Cruise Ship Travel At This Time?

Even if you travel on a cruise at this time, there is always a risk of infection on board. Additionally, the ship might have to take some unscheduled stops or shift the itinerary due to sudden travel restrictions. And if there’s an outbreak on board, the ship might not be able to dock at any nearby ports, which was a major issue in the spring of 2020.

Following a recent event where a ship was not allowed to dock in Puerto Vallarta, the government of Mexico issued a statement on Tuesday saying that it will allow cruise ships to dock at its ports even if some of the passengers and crew on board have tested positive for the virus.

person with a mask on a cruise ship outside looking out at the water

According to the statement, the persons on the ship who are not infected and not showing symptoms will be able to disembark normally, while those with a positive test result or who are experiencing symptoms will be given medical treatment or quarantined.

If you want to cancel your cruise, some cruise lines such as Carnival Cruises are temporarily waiving their cancellation fees. Check with your cruise line for the latest terms and conditions.

cruise ship docked and passengers relaxing outside

Will I Still Be Covered By Insurance If I Take A Cruise?

With sudden travel restrictions and trip interruptions happening left and right at the moment, consider buying a travel insurance package with a “cancel for any reason” upgrade. This will cover you if you decide to cancel your trip at the last minute.

Depending on which port the cruise will be departing from, a number of major cruise lines in the U.S. require unvaccinated passengers ages 12 and up to show proof of travel health insurance coverage prior to boarding the ship. Always check with your cruise line before booking travel, because you may not be issued a refund if you don’t have the right travel insurance.

Each travel insurance policy is different, so check if any “Do Not Travel” or “High-Risk” warnings are written into your policy which may limit you to getting coverage if you do decide to travel. If you’re looking for more ideas, you can also check out our recent post on travel insurance that covers Omicron.

cruise ship on the open waters

Read More:

Travel Insurance That Covers Covid-19 for 2021

Curacao Covid Entry Requirements For Travel In 2022

U.S. Issues Level 4 ‘Do Not Travel’ Advisories For 9 More Countries

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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.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories


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