The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday warned people not to cruise, regardless of their vaccination status, due to outbreaks on board fueled by the Omicron variant.
The CDC said it has more than 90 cruise ships under investigation or observation following COVID-19 cases. The agency did not disclose the number of infections.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 is easily spread between nearby people on ships, and the chances of contracting COVID-19 on cruise ships are very high,” even though people are fully vaccinated and have received a recall, the CDC said.
The Cruise Lines International Assn. said he was disappointed with the new recommendations, saying the industry had been singled out despite following strict health protocols compared to other travel sectors.
The decision “is particularly puzzling given that the cases identified on cruise ships consistently represent a very small minority of the total population on board,” said a statement. “The majority of these cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, placing little or no burden on medical resources on board or ashore. “
In March 2020, as the coronavirus took hold in the United States, the CDC suspended all cruises for what turned out to be 15 months. In June, it allowed ships to resume navigation under new strict conditions.
In August, as the Delta variant increased, the agency warned those at risk of serious illness despite being vaccinated not to cruise.
The CDC also recommended that passengers on Thursday get tested and quarantined for five days after docking, regardless of their vaccination status and even if they have no symptoms.
Omicron has sent cases skyrocketing to unprecedented levels across the United States, including Florida, the hub of the nation’s cruise industry. The state set a new record this week for new daily cases, with more than 58,000 registered as of Wednesday.
U.S. cruise lines have not announced any plans to stop travel, although ships have been denied entry into some foreign ports.
Carnival Corp. spokesman Roger Frizzell said in an email after the CDC’s recommendation that the company had no plans for any changes.
“Our improved health and safety protocols have proven to be effective time and time again over the past year,” he said.
Prior to the CDC’s announcement, Royal Caribbean Group said in a statement that Omicron was causing passenger cancellations and route changes, but was causing “significantly less severe symptoms than previous variants.”
The company said that since the restart of cruises in US waters last spring, 1.1 million passengers had traveled with its cruise lines and 1,745 people had tested positive for COVID-19, or about 0.16%. .
He said 41 people had to be hospitalized and no passenger affected with Omicron had been taken to hospital.
“We don’t like to see even a single case, but our experience is a fraction of the comparable statistics of virtually any other comparable location or industry. Few companies are subject to such intense scrutiny, regulation and disclosure requirements by so many authorities, ”said Richard Fain, Managing Director of Royal Caribbean.
Most cruise lines require adult passengers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Ships are allowed to relax measures such as mask use if at least 95% of passengers and 95% of crew are fully vaccinated.
Janine Calfo, 55, of Salt Lake City, postponed a four-day Carnival cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada, Mexico, earlier this month when she had a groundbreaking case of COVID-19 three days before departure. She booked the cruise for February and is still ready to go.
“It’s my personal opinion, but it looks like the Omicron is going to be a quick burn,” said Calfo, who has asthma and plans to get the booster back in a few weeks. “My cruise is over 40 days away.”
She added, however, “I think I’ll plan to take out travel insurance this time around.”
Associated Press writer Terry Tang in San Jose contributed to this report.