According to Travel Weekly, the CDC has changed the Cruise Travel Health Notice (THN) for cruise ship travel from Level 3 to Level 4, recommending that people avoid cruising regardless of vaccination status. 

“Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants,” said the CDC. “The virus that causes Covid-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters onboard ships, and the chance of getting Covid-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a Covid-19 vaccine booster dose.”

In a statement provided by the agency’s spokesperson Dave Daigle, the CDC noted the decision was made as COVID-19 cases are increasing on ships, in the U.S. Between Dec. 15 and Dec. 29, cruise ships sailing in U.S. waters reported 5,013 COVID-19 cases to the CDC. There were 162 cases reported between Nov. 30 and Dec. 14, according to USA Today.  

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) – in a statement shared by Bari Golin-Blaugrund, vice president of strategic communications and public affairs for CLIA – called the CDC’s move “perplexing” and that it was “disappointed and disagreed with the decision to single out the cruise industry.”

“Cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard – far fewer than on land – and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore,” CLIA said.

However, CLIA said that the organization and its cruise line members remain committed to working with the CDC in the interest of public health and safety. 

Unlike the shutdown of cruise operations in March 2021, vaccines are widely available, and enhanced protocols on ships mitigate the spread of communicable diseases.

If travelers choose to cruise, the CDC recommends that passengers are fully vaccinated and get a COVID-19 booster shot if eligible before boarding.