By Marnie Hunter, CNN
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has moved cruise travel out of the “very high” risk category of its travel health notices.
Cruise travel was moved from Level 4 into the CDC’s Level 3 “high” risk category on Tuesday, about a week after the agency updated its Covid-19 criteria for evaluating the risk level of cruising.
Cruise travel had been at Level 4 since December 30, when the CDC advised avoiding cruise travel regardless of vaccination status as the Omicron variant surged.
The new Level 3 designation urges travelers to “make sure you are up to date with your Covid-19 vaccines before cruise ship travel.”
The agency still advises avoiding cruise travel if you are not up to date with your vaccines or if you are up to date but at increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19.
Cruise industry reaction
Industry body Cruise Lines International Association called the CDC’s lowering of cruise travel’s risk level “a step in the right direction,” in a statement, saying that it “recognizes the leadership and effectiveness of the cruise sector’s health and safety protocols that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting.”
On February 9, the CDC updated its travel health notice for cruise travel by adding criteria for how it determines the risk level for cruises.
For cruise travel, the CDC’s primary criteria in evaluating the risk level is the number of new Covid-19 cases among crew and the case trajectory among crew over the past 14 days.
Level 4 means more than 2,000 cases detected among crew on cruise ships over the past 14 days. Level 3 is 1,000 to 2,000 news cases. Level 2 is 500-999 new cases. Level 1 is fewer than 500 new crew cases.
Risk guidance now optional
Meanwhile, the CDC’s Covid-19 risk mitigation guidance has become optional for many cruise ships.
The CDC’s extended conditional sailing order expired In January, and the agency has transitioned to a voluntary program for foreign-flagged cruise ships operating in US waters.
The agency recently released more information about the new opt-in program. The agency has also updated its cruise ship status dashboard, which shows which ships have opted into its program and a color code indicating the level of Covid-19 detected.
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Top image: A cruise ship waits for people to embark before leaving PortMiami on December 31, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)