USA's CDC agency (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) moved cruise travel out of the "very high" risk category of the travel health notices.
Cruise travel has been moved from Level 4 into the Level 3 "high" risk category on February 15, about a week after the agency updated its COVID criteria for evaluating the risk level of cruising.
Cruising had been at Level 4 since December 30, 2021, when the CDC advised avoiding cruises regardless of vaccination status as the new Omicron variant surged.
The new Level 3 designation urges cruisers to "make sure you are up to date with your Covid-19 vaccines before cruise ship travel."
The agency still advises avoiding cruises if vacationers are not up to date with their vaccines or if they are up to date but at increased risk for severe illness from COVID.
CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) called the lowering of cruise travel's risk level "a step in the right direction." CLIA said it "recognizes the leadership and effectiveness of the cruise sector's health and safety protocols that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting."
On February 9, the CDC updated its travel health notice for cruise ship travel by adding criteria for how it determines the risk level for cruises. For cruise travel, the primary criteria of the CDC in evaluating the risk level is the number of new COVID cases among the crew and the case trajectory over the past 14 days. Level 4 means 2,000+ cases detected among the crew on cruise ships over the past 14 days. Level 3 is between 1,000-2,000 new cases. Level 2 is 500-999 new cases, while Level 1 is fewer than 500 new crew cases.
Meanwhile, the CDC's COVID risk mitigation guidance became optional for a lot of cruise ships.
The extended conditional sailing order expired last month, and the CDC transitioned to a voluntary program for foreign-flagged ships operating in US waters. The agency has updated its cruise ship status dashboard, showing which ships have opted into its program and a color code indicating the level of COVID cases detected.