On Thursday, the CDC issued a new set of guidelines for cruise ships that aren’t mandatory, saying they’re designed to assist operators with their health protocols.
The agency stated that “cruise ships must continue to report all deaths and other illnesses as defined by CDC to the CDC quarantine station at or nearest the U.S. port of arrival.”
“Cruise ship operators should carefully consider and incorporate these recommendations in developing their own health and safety protocols. Plans should include triggers for a graduated approach to outbreak management in response to increasing case counts or other public health concerns,” the agency said, adding that it’s also designed to “reduce the risk of introduction and spread COVID-19.”
The guidance also calls for “contingency plans in the event an outbreak requires the ship” to be removed from service as well as “contingency plans for shoreside housing needs of travelers in need of continued isolation and quarantine after disembarkation.”
The plans should also address quarantines, testing, a mechanism to notify health officials, food delivery to quarantined individuals, daily monitoring, and other protocols, according to the CDC.
Adding further, the CDC said it “recommends all eligible travelers be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines” while claiming that a “high proportion of travelers on board who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines reduces the likelihood that cruise ships’ medical centers are overwhelmed by cases of COVID-19.”
In recent months, there were instances of fully vaccinated cruise ships suffering COVID-19 outbreaks, which derailed the ship’s travel plans. For example, a “100 percent vaccinated” Princess Cruises ship, for example, suffered a COVID-19 outbreak before it docked in San Francisco, according to officials in March.
On Monday, a CDC update said was doing away with its COVID-19 reporting system for cruise ships. The move was hailed by cruise industry groups, who have said that COVID-19-related rules have battered the industry over the past two years.
“CDC has worked closely with the cruise industry, state, territorial, and local health authorities, and federal and seaport partners to provide a safer and healthier environment for cruise passengers and crew,” the federal agency’s website said in its update on Monday. “Cruise ships have access to guidance and tools to manage their own COVID-19 mitigation programs.”
With the CDC change, Cruise Lines International Association spokeswoman Anne Madison told news outlets Monday that the industry is happy to instead have “a set of guidelines for public health operations on cruise ships” rather than rules.