(12:14 p.m. EDT) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eliminated its pandemic-related Cruise Travel Health Notices for cruise passengers. The agency's travel notice for cruises has been in place at various levels since March 2020.
The agency had a warning level of "high risk" for contracting COVID-19 on a cruise ship for much of the pandemic. Earlier this month, the threat level was lowered to Level 2, meaning moderate threat.
The elimination of the warnings altogether was promptly praised by cruise lines.
"The CDC's removal of its health notice related to cruise travel is an important step forward in recognizing the work we have done to protect our guests," Holland America Line President Gus Antorcha said. "At Holland America Line, we continue to operate vaccinated cruises and have created a safe and healthy environment for our guests, our teams, and the communities we serve, helping to ensure cruising is among the safest forms of socializing and travel."
"We're absolutely thrilled to see that the CDC recognizes that it's time to remove the Travel Health Notice website," said Tom McAlpin, CEO of Virgin Voyages. "While we feel this was a long time coming, we recognize this move as a demonstration of all of the hard work this industry has done to ensure that we're offering the safest way to travel. It's refreshing to see them meet us where we're at, and clearly where our consumers are at considering the major uptick in demand we've seen."
While eliminating any cruise travel warning, the CDC did not declare cruising risk-free.
"While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings," the agency said in a statement. "CDC will continue to provide guidance to the cruise ship industry to operate in a way that provides a safer and healthier environment for crew, passengers, and communities through CDC's COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships."
The agency also suggested cruise passenger should "make sure they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines before cruise ship travel and follow their cruise ship's requirements and recommendations."
The CDC continued to post recommendations for cruise travelers on its Cruise Ship Travel During COVID-19 webpage. These recommendations include such areas as vaccinations, mask-wearing and testing, before, during and after cruises.
The agency also said it would continue to update its color-coded ship directory, which shows any outbreaks and investigations of COVID-19 among passengers and crew on cruise ships operating in U.S. waters.
The Cruise Lines International Association, the industry's largest trade association, said the CDC's removal of the health notice "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."
This story will be updated as more information and comments become available.