The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that cruise ship travel be avoided by all travelers regardless of their vaccination status.
A dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases at sea
The agency’s advice follows a number of outbreaks of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships in recent weeks. Cruise ships operating in US waters recorded 5000 Covid cases to the CDC between December 15 and December 29. A startling increase from the previous two weeks where 162 cases were reported.
"It is especially important that travelers who are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, regardless of vaccination status."
"Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants," the CDC said on its website.
The CDC advice comes as the Omicron variant is showing to be more easily spread between people in close proximity. The chances of transmitting the virus on a ship between people from different locations, is highly likely at present, even for those who are fully vaccinated.
What to know if you're cruising soon
The CDC is now advising anyone who does go ahead and travel on a cruise to receive a booster dose before they travel and that face masks be worn in all shared spaces. They have also recommended that anyone who does go on a cruise take an antigen test one to three days before departure and three to five days after their trip, regardless of their vaccination status or symptoms.
Status warning on cruise ships for COVID
The agency bumped up the travel risk level for cruise travel from Level three to Level four, indicating the risk for Covid-19 is currently "very high."
The CDC has created a color status classification for cruise ships. Ships are broken into five color-coded classifications. Currently over 90 cruise ships at sea have reached "level yellow" – the level where an outbreak on a ship is investigated by the CDC.
The Omicron variant is said to shape how some destination ports view the arrival of a ship with cases on board. In the past week, several cruise ships were denied entry to ports due to the number of passengers on board testing positive. Among the ports still open to cruise ships, Mexico says cruise ships with COVID cases are welcome and only passengers with no symptoms can enter.
For more information on COVID-19 and travel, check out Lonely Planet's Health Hub.
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