CDC Relaxes Protocols for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has modified its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters. The changes made are more relaxed as the cruise industry is sailing safely with fewer cases onboard.

CDC Updates Requirements for Cruise Ships

As cruise ships continue to operate safely in U.S. waters and cases reduce, the CDC has updated its voluntary program for cruise ships.

The modifications were released on March 18 and relaxed the protocols even further, including allowing interactive passenger experiences onboard, physical distancing during shore excursions now a recommendation, updated quarantine cabin guidance, and more.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)

The Cruise Line International Association reacted to the changes, “CLIA cruise line members continue to lead the way in unmatched health and safety measures compared to virtually any other commercial setting.”

“The updates announced today acknowledge the effectiveness of the cruise lines in their ability to create an environment that provides one of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation and reflect the improvements in the public health landscape.

CLIA member cruise lines will continue to operate in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of everyone onboard, as well as the communities that we visit.”

Read Also: What is the CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships?

What Are the Changes?

There are several changes that all reduce the protocols that only impact cruise ships within the CDC program and sailing in U.S. waters.

One of the most significant changes is that guests can now take part in onboard experiences. Depending on the cruise line, this may include activities and events such as cooking classes, bridge tours, and competitions where guests interact.

CDC says, “Removed requirement for cruise ship operators to suspend passenger interactive experiences previously approved by the Vessel Sanitation Program.”

Docked Miami Cruise Ships
Photo Credit: Francisco Blanco /

For guests that are on “Highly Vaccinated” and “Vaccination Standard of Excellence ships,” classified sailings, physical distancing during shore excursions and transportation is now recommended. Previously, this was a requirement. Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have also recently relaxed rules for unvaccinated guests regarding shore excursions.

Another change is that quarantine guidance for close contacts can be identified within 36 hours before disembarking.

The CDC is gradually reducing its strict requirements for cruise ships, and cruise lines are also relaxing their protocols. We’ve already recently seen redecided face mask rules onboard, the removal of Carnival “bubble” tours, and Norwegian Cruise Line allowing unvaccinated guests under the age of 12 to sail.

CDC’s Cruise Travel Advisory was also changed this past week from level 3 down to level 2, the lowest since the industry-wide suspension first started in March 2020.

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