CDC says don’t travel on cruise ships even if vaccinated as COVID surges

There are bigger dangers on the high seas than the Bermuda Triangle.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned the public Thursday to stay off cruise ships — even if they’re vaccinated — because of the COVID-19 threat.

“Avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status,” the agency said in its new guidelines. “Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

The CDC moved cruise ship travel from a Level 3 “high” warning to Level 4, the highest risk. The change “reflects increases in cases onboard cruise ships since identification of the Omicron variant,” it said.

People who go on a cruise despite the warnings should get tested for COVID one to three days before they depart and again three to five days after, the new guidelines dictate. Passengers who are not fully vaccinated should “self-quarantine” for five days after travel, it said, warning that COVID spreads easily between passengers wedged into close quarters.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Thursday people should avoid traveling on cruise ships regardless of their vaccination status.
REUTERS/Erick Marciscano

“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,” the CDC said, citing an uptick of cases across multiple ships. “There has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the COVID-19 case threshold for CDC investigation.”

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A ship reaches yellow status if positive cases have been reported in 0.1 percent or more of passengers on most voyages, meaning if a cruise had 6,500 passengers, an investigation would begin if seven or more cases are reported. The agency is currently investigating or monitoring around 100 cruise ships, including major companies like Carnival Corp., Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Tuesday that all ships should be docked amid the Omicron surge, calling them “petri dishes” of COVID infection.

Travel stocks have been under pressure this week, as Omicron wrecks holiday plans and cases continue to surge nationally.

Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival cruise lines have reported Omicron outbreaks during Christmas week. The Carnival Freedom ship was denied entry to Bonaire and Aruba following a passenger outbreak, the company said.