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Cruise industry slams CDC for "discriminatory" view of likelihood of getting Covid on a cruise ship

09 Feb 2022
Matt Hochberg

The cruise industry is lashing out at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for their latest guidance against cruise ship travel.

CDC headquarters

On February 9, the CDC updated the notice to clarify the modifications of CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters.

Despite Covid numbers falling precipitously on ships (and on land), the agency continued to urge the public against cruise ship travel for the fully vaccinated because in their view, the chances of getting COVID on a cruise ship is "very high".

In a statement by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry rejected this notion and called out the CDC for being "unnecessarily discriminatory against
cruise to maintain that the chances of getting COVID-19 on a cruise “is very high” even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines."

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have adopted highly effective protocols for passengers and crew members on its ships that that test all persons boarding, have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using only private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated.

According to CLIA, the result has been has been a dramatic drop in the number of COVID-positive cases, with hospitalizations being extraordinarily rare – in fact 80 times
lower than on land in the U.S. 

This data was backed up by Royal Caribbean Group's CEO Jason Liberty when he said over the last several weeks, cases onboard have been "declining rapidly."

Despite these facts, the CDC continues to maintain even if you are fully vaccinated, the chances of getting COVID on a cruise ship is very high.

"Regrettably, upon initial review, the latest CDC guidance appears out of step with the actual public health conditions on cruise ships and unnecessary in light of societal trends away from more restrictive measures.

"We are confounded by the CDC’s imposition of even more complex and unwarranted measures which ignore empirical evidence that the industry’s protocols have provided a greater level of COVID mitigation than most any other setting.

CLIA says misleading statements by the CDC on the state of Covid on a cruise ship creates confusion for consumers, and creates potential problems within the different sectors of travel the cruise industry operates.

In short, CLIA feels the CDC is targeting the cruise lines in its recommendations, "It seems unnecessarily discriminatory against cruise to maintain that the chances of getting COVID-19 on a cruise “is very high” even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines."

CLIA even went as far as to say the CDC's actions against cruise ships are counterproductive to promoting the importance of Covid-19 vaccines to the general public, "This discounts the importance of what the CDC has otherwise promoted as the single most important touchstone for public health and safety."

"The vaccination rate on cruise ships is close to 100%, whereas on land it is only about 63%."

You can read the full CLIA statement here:

Why does the CDC not warn against other travel and entertainment?

NBA Basketball game on February 9, 2022

Often the CDC has been accused of holding the cruise lines to a double standard when compared to other forms of shoreside travel and entertainment settings (such as restaurants, bars, and theme parks).

On the CDC's website, it now explains that cruise ships are "congregate residential settings" with high risk of COVID-19 transmission among travelers (passengers and crew).

In case you're wondering, this means the CDC thinks examples of "congregate residential settings" are prisons, nursing homes, schools, and shelters.

Source: CDC

"Cruise ships have thousands of travelers living for multiple days (or months for crew) on the same ship—eating, sleeping, and participating in activities together in one location. These factors are not typically found in other shoreside travel and entertainment settings (such as restaurants, bars, theme parks). Data from the pandemic suggest COVID-19 spreads quickly in group settings, including on cruise ships. Hence, CDC developed COVID-19 THN criteria specific to cruise ships to inform the public regarding COVID-19 conditions on cruise ships."

It then went on to pass the buck of saying those other shoreside travel and entertainment settings in the United States are regulated by public health agencies on a state and local level.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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