The federal health agency said it will leave it up to travelers to determine whether they feel safe getting on a cruise ship, although it still issued a warning about going on a cruise.
“While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings,” CDC spokesman Dave Daigle said in a statement to news outlets last week.
Daigle added that the CDC decision was based on “the current state of the pandemic and decreases in COVID-19 cases onboard cruise ships over the past several weeks.”
Since mid-January, COVID-19 cases have been falling across the United States. Hospitalizations have also dropped to a new low on April 1, according to data from the agency.
After the CDC’s decision, cruise companies and industry groups praised the move.
The Cruise Lines International Association stated that the federal agency finally “recognizes the effective public health measures in place on cruise ships and begins to level the playing field between cruise and similarly situated venues on land.”
“We’re very excited about it,” Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin told Yahoo Finance. “We finally see that the CDC has been listening to what we’ve been saying for a long time: that cruising is the safest way to travel. Of course, they have a tough job, but I think that they finally realize that cruising is safe.”
Cruise operators had also said the health agency was discriminating against the industry when hotels and airlines could operate with limited or no restrictions.
Last week, a Princess Cruises ship returning from the Panama Canal saw several passengers and crew members test positive for COVID-19 before it returned to San Francisco. The cruise operator told outlets that 100 percent of crew members and passengers were vaccinated.
The guidelines for traveling on cruise ships on the health agency’s page no longer shows a scale for its warning. Instead, it now only says guests should make sure they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines before boarding the ships.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the cruise industry has been battered by lockdowns and restrictions—amid early speculation that cruise ships were “super spreaders” of the virus. Industry data suggests that cruise companies collectively lost $63 billion in 2020 and 2021.
COVID-19 is caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
Reuters contributed to this report.