(5:30 p.m. EST) -- With COVID-19 cases on cruise lines declining, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday lowered its health warning against cruising.
CDC spokeswoman Caitlin Shockey confirmed the agency knocked its Cruise Travel Health Notice down from the most serious Level 4 advice against all cruise travel -- regardless of passengers' vaccination status -- to Level 3. Level 3 recommends only that people who aren't up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines or people with an increased risk of severe illness avoid cruise travel.
"This determination was made in response to decrease in COVID-19 cases occurring on cruise ships operating in the United States," Shockey said.
The CDC had elevated its travel warning for cruise ships from Level 3 to Level 4 at the end of December as the omicron variant surged.
The move comes on the heels of the CDC's announcement last week of new optional guidance for the cruise industry. The new voluntary guidelines for cruise lines replace, but still largely mirror, the mandatory rules of its Conditional Sailing Order, which expired January 15.
The Cruise Lines International Association, the industry's largest trade organization, praised the move as a "step in the right direction."
"The decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lower the Travel Health Notice threat level for cruise ships is a step in the right direction and recognizes the leadership and effectiveness of the cruise sector's health and safety protocols that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting.
"Cruise ships have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated. As a result, cases of COVID-19 are very low with the vast majority mild or asymptomatic -- making cruise unequaled in its multilayered approach to effectively mitigating COVID-19."