New recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that travelers should avoid cruises. The agency rates cruise travel warnings with rankings from one to four, with four being the riskiest category — and cruises have now risen to level four.
Throughout the pandemic, cruise ships have often been the locations of superspreader events. Such events became rarer as more people worldwide received vaccinations, but the arrival of the omicron variant has once again resulted in spread of the virus on cruises.
Cruises, however, are not unique when it comes to rising infection rates. On Thursday, the U.S. as a whole saw over half a million new cases.
Fully vaccinated individuals might wonder if the recommendations apply to them; the answer is yes. Omicron has resulted in massive numbers of breakthrough cases among both the vaccinated and recovered.
Cruise ships, which confine passengers to limited spaces, are fertile ground for viral spread. Onboard outbreaks can also cause ports to reject ships, leading to further complications for passengers.
Leaders in the travel industry are not pleased about the CDC’s new recommendations. The pandemic has pummeled the industry for nearly two years, and continued travel warnings aren’t helping.
Though omicron outbreaks on cruise ships might be concerning, many people in the travel industry believe the CDC recommendations make little sense. Recent onboard outbreaks have included only small percentages of passengers.
A spokesperson from Cruise Lines International Association stated that cruise ships have adequate medical resources for treating passengers with the virus.
The CDC is not unusual in its choice to raise cruise travel warnings to level 4. Many other nations’ CDCs have also increased their cruise warnings to the highest levels.
On Dec. 1, over 500,000 new COVID-19 cases were recorded worldwide. By Dec. 30, that number nearly quadrupled to over 2 million, likely because of omicron’s extraordinarily contagious nature.