The removal of the Cruise Ship Travel Health Notice advisory was announced by the CDC via a notice on its website. It comes just three months after the agency raised its advisory to Level 4 – the highest level of warning, which recommends avoiding cruising altogether – in response to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
However, the agency has since undertaken a rapid easing of the advisory’s severity due to falling cases and growing evidence that the dominant Omicron variant is relatively mild. The CDC lowered the advisory to Level 3 in late February, and again to Level 2 in mid-March.
The CDC says that travellers should continue to make their own risk assessments
In addition, CDC guidelines for the operation of cruise ships became optional in January following the lapse of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which had mandated compulsory adherence to CDC guidelines for all cruise lines following its introduction in October 2020.
However, the agency says it will still continue to provide guidance to the cruise ship industry to enable cruise lines to provide ‘safer and healthier environments’ for crew, passengers and local communities.
Additionally, while the travel health notice has been lifted, CDC officials still recommend that passengers ‘make their own risk assessment’ to determine their own health risks before embarking on a cruise, ‘much like they do in all other travel settings’ and should make sure that they are up to date with Covid-19 vaccines.
The decision has been welcomed by the cruise industry
The decision to drop the advisory has been welcomed by the Cruise Lines International Association trade body, which released a statement saying that: “Today's decision by the CDC to altogether remove the Travel Health Notice for cruising recognises the effective public health measures in place on cruise ships and begins to level the playing field, between cruise and similarly situated venues on land, for the first time since March 2020.”
Cruise line Virgin Voyages also praised the move, with CEO Tom McAlpin saying: “We’re absolutely thrilled to see that the CDC recognizes that it’s time to remove the Travel Health Notice website. While we feel this was a long time coming, we recognize this move as a demonstration of all of the hard work this industry has done.”