ATLANTA, Georgia: Citing a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases reported on cruise ships, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is easing its warning covering cruise ship travel.
The CDC moved cruise ship warnings to a level 3 health notice this week, and encouraged travelers to be "up to date" with their COVID-19 vaccines before traveling.
Regardless of vaccination status, those who are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are still advised to avoid cruise travel.
The move comes after the rapidly spreading Omicron variant caused several COVID-19 case clusters on vessels, raised cruise ship travel warnings to a level 4 health notice and encouraged travelers to avoid cruises.
The CDC uses a four-level travel health notice system to alert travelers around the world. Level 4, the highest alert level, warns of "very high" COVID-19 levels.
The guidance was softened for vaccinated travelers, in response to a decrease in COVID-19 cases on cruise ships operating in the U.S., said CDC spokesperson Caitlin Shockey.
"Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself from severe disease, slow the spread of COVID-19, and reduce the number of new variants. If you are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, avoid cruise ship travel," the CDC says on its website.
According to the CDC, travelers "up to date" on their COVID-19 vaccines have received all recommended vaccines, including booster doses, if eligible.
The CDC’s decision is "a step in the right direction," said Cruise Lines International Association, a cruise industry trade group.
"Cruise ships have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated," the association stated.
"As a result, cases of COVID-19 are very low, with the vast majority mild or asymptomatic, making cruise unequaled in its multilayered approach to effectively mitigating COVID-19," the statement added.