(12:46 p.m. EDT) With the Delta variant spreading to an increasing number of fully vaccinated people, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance for cruise ship travel with a new warning for vaccinated cruisers, including a recommendation that high-risk older adults not cruise.
“Travelers who are at an increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19 should avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, regardless of vaccination status,” the agency said in a statement posted on Friday, August 20.
The no-cruise recommendation applies to certain adults age 65 and up, pregnant women and those who are immunocompromised or otherwise at risk of severe illness.
Asked to clarify what older adults would be at risk, a CDC spokesperson told Cruise Critic that the, "increased risk of severe illness applies to older unvaccinated adults, and not all people 65 and older. However, within the group of vaccinated older adults, there may be some that have underlying conditions that put them at increased risk."
The CDC's new guidance did not come as a surprise to cruise lines.
“The updated advice from CDC is consistent with longstanding CLIA member practices, including the recommendation that those with increased risk of serious illness consult with their doctors prior to any form of travel", the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said in a statement. “CLIA cruise ships will continue to operate with some of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation of any setting in the world, with protocols and precautions going far and above other sectors.”
The CDC continues to recommend that those who are unvaccinated do not cruise. Most cruise lines are operating with full vaccination mandates for all eligible travelers over the age of 12.
With the Delta variant spreading, there have been isolated “breakthrough cases” of COVID-19 among vaccinated guests on cruise ships. The CDC continues to suggest that all cruise passengers, no matter their vaccination status, undergo pre-cruise Covid-19 testing -- as now required by lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises. The agency also recommends that cruise passengers be tested three-to-five-days after any cruise, to prevent community spread.
In addition, the CDC recommends that all cruise passengers wear a mask in indoor shipboard spaces – as now required in select areas by several lines including Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.