CDC ends COVID-19 program for cruise ships

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has removed a program that allowed the public to view levels of COVID-19 on cruise ships that sail in US waters.

The CDC announced on Monday that it would scrap the program, saying it “has determined that the cruise industry has access to the necessary tools (for example, cruise-specific recommendations and advice, vaccinations, testing instruments , treatment modalities and non-pharmaceutical interventions) to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 on board.”

The move comes as the BA.5 omicron sub-variant is spreading in the United States. The variant is now estimated to account for more than 78% of new cases, according to the CDC.

Pandemic-era policy designated ships with a color-coding system based on testing and vaccination rates, allowing the public to monitor the spread of the virus on ships. The CDC said the system was scrapped because it “depends on each cruise line having the same COVID-19 testing standards, which can now vary from cruise line to cruise line.”

The CDC said it will continue to issue guidelines for cruise ships to mitigate and manage the transmission of COVID-19. He also said that each cruise “will determine its own specific COVID-19 related requirements for cruise travel, as well as safety measures and protocols for passengers traveling on board.”

PHOTO: Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas cruise ship uses the turning basin as it prepares to dock in Miami, May 6, 2022.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas cruise ship uses the turning basin as it prepares to dock in Miami, May 6, 2022.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images, FILE

“It’s still too early to say exactly what this means for cruise passengers, as cruise lines must now determine what their guidelines will be,” Cruise Critic editor Chris Gray Faust told ABC News. “CDC’s previous order covered a wide variety of requirements, including pre-cruise testing, vaccine requirements, masking guidelines, and quarantine requirements. Now that’s all back to the airline level cruising.”

Currently, coronavirus protocols vary between cruise lines and also depend on local mandates where ships are sailing.

Royal Caribbean requires all passengers 12 years and older to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with the last dose administered at least 14 days prior to departure.

Carnival Cruise Line offers vaccinated cruises, allowing guests who have received their last dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the day of sailing (not including the day of embarkation) and to have a proof of vaccination. Carnival makes some exceptions for unvaccinated passengers ages 5 and older, requiring such passengers to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test, taken within 72 and 24 hours prior to departure date upon check-in.

Norwegian Cruise Line requires all passengers 12 years and older to be fully immunized at least two weeks prior to departure in order to embark.

If passengers want to inquire about outbreaks on ships, the CDC advises them to contact the cruise line directly.

“It’s really important to keep up to date with your cruise line’s needs. Read the emails that cruise lines send you because things could change. If you have a travel agent, check with them “, said Faust.

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