CDC Relaxes Cruise Ship Requirements

CDC Relaxes Cruise Ship Requirements

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has loosened COVID-19 guidelines for cruise ships.

Ships with a 90% or above vaccination rate now fall into the “Highly Vaccinated” category. Previously, only vessels with a 95% or higher vaccination rate qualified as highly vaccinated.

According to the CDC, there are three vaccination classifications for cruise ships.

Ships carrying a passenger population with a vaccination rate below 90% count as “Not Highly Vaccinated.”

Though a 90% rate is now sufficient for the highly vaccinated category, it’s not the top-rated level. It allows passengers who haven’t received all relevant booster shots to count as vaccinated.

“Vaccination Standard of Excellence” is the highest category. The CDC gives that classification only to ships where 90% of passengers are fully up to date on boosters.

Regardless of which category a ship falls into, at least 95% of crew members must be fully vaccinated, including being up to date with boosters.

Tom Skinner, a spokesperson for the CDC, stated that modeling data supports the change. He also noted that full vaccination is the most effective way to reduce COVID-19’s spread.

Although a small number of unvaccinated passengers are allowed on board, the CDC still advises travelers to get vaccinated and boosted before cruising.

Ninety-two cruise ships are currently classified as “Highly Vaccinated.” Zero vessels have received the “Vaccination Standard of Excellence” classification.

CDC Headquarters Sign - Atlanta GA
CDC Headquarters Sign – Atlanta GA

The CDC applies these categories to commercial ships carrying 250 or more passengers, even if the ships operate out of foreign countries.

These classifications arose as a replacement for the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order, which ended in January. Cruise companies may choose to ignore the guidelines, though the categories are still helpful for careful passengers who want to make informed decisions.

The agency ended its blanket recommendation against cruise travel in March. It now advises travelers to assess the risks themselves.