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CDC shuts down its COVID program for cruise ships

by Tribune News Service | July 31, 2022 at 3:00 a.m.
The Carnival Cruise Line ship Mardi Gras docks at Terminal 3 at Port Canaveral, Florida, on June 4, 2021. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially ended its COVID-19 program for cruise ships.

The program was voluntary -- though cruise lines couldn't exactly decline to opt-in. It had replaced the CDC's previous Conditional Sailing Order back in February of this year.

Cruise lines operating in U.S. waters were compelled to strictly adhere to the COVID-19 program for cruise ships' guidance in order to prove they were upholding best practices for the mitigation of COVID-19 aboard their vessels.

It laid out acceptable guidelines for passenger vaccination requirements, testing protocols and masking rules, as well as onboard isolation protocols and the parameters for onboard medical facilities.

In an online update, the CDC announced it will instead, "publish guidance to help cruise ships continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and communities going forward."

Effectively, this means the CDC will provide health and safety recommendations for the cruise industry in the same way it currently provides them for other travel sectors. This brings a welcome end to the days of the cruise sector being singled out by authorities and designated as a higher-risk mode of travel.

The Cruise Lines International Association, which welcomed the news, released a statement following the announcement:

"We look forward to reviewing the details, which we understand will be posted on the CDC website in the coming days. This is an important step forward in the CDC aligning the guidelines for cruise with those it has established for other travel, hospitality, and entertainment sectors."

"I am somewhat conflicted about this happening," John Maddox, owner of Tropical Getaways Travel, said in reaction to the news. "I am thrilled that the days of the cruise lines being treated unfairly are hopefully over. I am hopeful that pre-cruise testing, which has been a source of anxiety for many, will be phased out."

But, like many cruisegoers, he would still like to have confidence the cruise lines are continuing to practice the highest degree of health and safety measures. After all, the pandemic may have transitioned to a new phase, but we're not out of the woods just yet. "I do hope the vaccine mandate continues for a while longer," Maddox added.

Print Headline: CDC shuts down its COVID program for cruise ships

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