CDC posts new Covid-19 recommendations for cruise ships

21 Jul 2022
Hayley Phillips

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new recommendations pertaining to Covid-19 for cruise ships and cruise lines.

Oasis of the Seas in Cozumel

Included in the recent post, the CDC addresses the following categories; onboard Covid-19 response plans, shoreside response plans, port operation components, medical care components, housing components, Covid-19 vaccines, surveillance for Covid-19, Covid-19 surveillance testing reminders, and procedures for embarking passengers including pre-embarkation Covid-19 testing.

This recent posting by the CDC comes on the heels of their announcement on July 18th, 2022 that the voluntary Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships was coming to an end.

Instead, the CDC would provide general guidance and recommendations to cruise lines for safe practices regarding Covid-19. With this new guidance, the CDC will instead provide general health and safety recommendations to cruise lines, this is very similar to how they are providing guidance to other areas of the travel industry, such as airlines.

CDC headquarters

“As of July 18, 2022, CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is no longer in effect. CDC will continue to publish guidance to help cruise ships continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and communities going forward,” states the CDC on their website.

The CDC stated in this new posting, “this guidance is based on the best available science regarding the subject areas covered. CDC will reevaluate the guidance for cruise ships periodically, based on scientific evidence and the state of the pandemic, and update the guidance as needed. CDC will notify cruise ship operators if the guidance is updated.”

As reported last week, the guidance posted by the CDC are only recommendations, not changes being made to cruise line protocols. Each individual cruise line, including Royal Caribbean, will evaluate the recommendations made by the CDC and will choose what their individual protocols will be.

The most recent guidance presented by the CDC cover nearly every aspect of cruising, including Covid-19 vaccines. The CDC says the following about Covid-19 vaccines for cruise travelers, “CDC recommends all eligible travelers be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.”

The guidance also recommend that cruise ships conduct pre-embarkation Covid-19 testing saying, “to reduce likelihood of onboard transmission, cruise ship operators should consider requiring travelers to get tested for current infection with a viral test as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days before travel) and present their negative test result prior to boarding. Testing within 1 day of embarkation is highly recommended.”

Covid test

The posted guidance by the CDC mean the organization is still recommending that cruise passengers be both vaccinated against Covid-19, as well as take a Covid-19 test prior to boarding a cruise ship.

It is important to know that this guidance posted by the CDC are only recommendations for cruise lines, and that it is up to each cruise line which, if any, of the recommendations they choose to follow.

The decision to end the CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, allows cruise lines to determine and set their own individual Covid-19 policies and requirements.

Royal Caribbean posts their Covid-19 requirements on their website under their “Healthy Sail Center”. “The U.S. CDC recently announced that the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is no longer in effect, and published recommendations to guide cruise lines as they determine protocols. Upon review, we will adjust our protocols and provide guidance to our guests. For now, our current protocols remain in effect for cruises departing U.S. homeports,” states Royal Caribbean on their website as of today, July 21, 2022.

Currently, Royal Caribbean has adjusted requirements for sailing depending on where the cruise ship embarks from. For example, passengers embarking on a cruise from Florida must meet the following requirements in order to sail: be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at least 14 days before sailing (children age 11 and under are not required to be vaccinated against Covid-19). Guests sailing from Florida are also required to take a Covid-19 test before sailing. “Before arriving on boarding day, you’ll need to take a COVID-19 test on your own, at your own expense, to meet boarding requirements in line with U.S. CDC guidance. Vaccinated guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test no more that 2 days before boarding day,” states Royal Caribbean on their website. Royal Caribbean’s Covid-19 requirements and protocols depends on the embarkation location and the destination of the cruise ship, it is important that guests check Royal Caribbean’s website for the most recent requirements before sailing. 

Serenade of the Seas in St Lucia

With the end of the CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, it is likely that changes to Covid-19 protocols for cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean will be made.

For the most up to date Covid-19 protocols for cruising with Royal Caribbean read here.

Readers can view the most recent posting by the CDC pertaining to cruise ships here.

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