All the cruise ships sailing from U.S. ports decided to join CDC’s new voluntary program for the management and reporting of COVID-19.
ruise lines had until February 18 to inform the CDC of their decision. Earlier, the CDC had published the update to the program, reporting that a total of 111 cruise ships have opted into its new program. None of the cruise ships opted out of the program.
During the deadline day, Carnival Corporation reported that its brands would join in, a move followed by Royal Caribbean Group. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings had previously announced their intention to join the voluntary program.
Almost all the cruise ships are also reporting that they will operate under what the CDC calls “highly vaccinated” status. To qualify, ships must have at least 95% of their passengers and 95% of crew who are fully vaccinated.
The cruise lines have universally declared their drive to maintain their vaccination requirements for the foreseeable future. As for the CDC, it is encouraging ships to move to an even higher standard where both crew and passengers are fully up to date with vaccines meaning that they have also had booster shots if qualified.
Furthermore, the CDC provided guidance for cruise ship operators on how to calculate the dates of eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine booster doses and “up to date” status. It also confirmed that children under the age of five years who are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations would not be counted when determining the percentage of passengers on board who are fully vaccinated.
Responding to the latest developments, the Cruise Lines International Association said that CDC’s recent decisions, including lowering the travel warning that had told people to avoid cruises, is a step in the right direction.
In the meantime, major cruise lines also are moving to relax some of the restrictions on passengers aboard the ships. In fact, Carnival Cruise Line, starting March 1 will not require fully vaccinated passengers in most locations to use face coverings, but masks would still be expected in certain venues.
Similarly, Royal Caribbean International informed that it was no longer requiring fully vaccinated passengers to use masks onboard but that they should still be worn in terminals and where required by destinations.