The USA's agency CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) on Thursday, December 30, increased the risk for cruise ship travel to the highest level and said it "should be avoided, regardless of vaccination status."
The CDC bumped up the travel risk level for cruise travel from Level 3 to Level 4, indicating the risk for COVID/Coronavirus was "very high."
CDC's website says the move reflected increases in cases onboard cruise ships since the identification of the Omicron variant.
"Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to CDC. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the COVID-19 case threshold for CDC investigation."
On December 30, the agency listed a total of 91 ships in its yellow category indicating that the volume of COVID cases reported had met the CDC's threshold for investigation. That is 5 more ships than were listed as yellow on December 28. On December 30, no vessels were listed as red, which indicates that reported cases are at/above the threshold for investigation. 3 ships were listed as orange on December 30, indicating that reported cases were below the CDC's threshold for investigation. 16 vessels were listed as green, meaning that they had no reported cases of COVID.
Green, orange, yellow, red designations indicate a COVID situation from best to worst. A gray designation is reserved for vessels that the CDC has not reviewed for COVID safety.
CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) expressed disappointment at the elevated risk level. In a statement, CLIA said the CDC's decision to raise the travel level for cruising was "particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard - far fewer than on land - and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore."
The association said, "cruise ships offer a highly controlled environment with science-backed measures, known testing and vaccination levels far above other venues or modes of transportation and travel, and significantly lower incidence rates than land."
At least 4 ocean ships were turned away from cruise ports or were prohibited from letting guests disembark in the Americas last week because of COVID cases aboard.
A statement from the US Travel Association indicated frustration with the advisory. The statement from Tori Emerson Barnes, the executive vice president of public affairs & policy of the association, said the U.S. Travel Association sincerely hoped the "CDC advisory singling out recreational cruise travel - enacted despite the sector's robust health practices and high rate (95%) of onboard vaccination - is brief and temporary".