The US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now advising American travellers regardless of vaccine status to avoid cruising, after raising its travel health notice for the activity to Level 4.
The CDC said that the move was due to an increase in cases onboard cruise ships following the emergence of the Omicron Covid variant, as well as the higher transmissibility within the confined spaces of such vessels.
The agency said that cruise lines reported 5,013 coronavirus cases on ships operating within US waters between 15 and 29 December – a significant increase from the 162 cases reported over the previous two weeks. However, this may also be due to the popularity of Christmas cruises.
The CDC previously raised its health notice for cruising to Level 4 due to Covid in November 2020, but had subsequently lowered it to Level 3 – ‘unvaccinated travellers should avoid non-essential travel’ - in June 2021.
Testing, insurance and social distancing
The CDC now recommends that all cruise passengers who choose to cruise should take a pre-embarkation test up to 72 hours beforehand - and another three to five days into their cruise. The CDC says that if passengers test positive, they should self-isolate immediately.
The agency also suggests that travellers purchase travel insurance which enables overseas care if required, and that passengers also consider buying additional coverage for health care and emergency evacuation.
The CDC also advises that cruise ship passengers should wear a mask while in shared spaces onboard vessels, maintain a two metre distance from anyone they are not travelling with, both indoors and outdoors and wash their hands regularly with hand sanitiser.
Passengers should also self-isolate in their cabins if they display symptoms of Covid-19 and notify their onboard medical centre immediately.
Self-monitoring and self-isolating upon return to land
For returning passengers, the CDC recommends getting Covid tested three to five days after disembarkation, and self-isolating in the event of a positive test. In addition, the agency recommends self-monitoring for Covid symptoms for the fortnight after the end of the cruise, and self-isolating if any symptoms are displayed, regardless of vaccination status.
The CDC also recommends that all unvaccinated cruise passengers self-isolate for a week after disembarking.