What the CDC Says About Your Cruise Plans

What the CDC Says About Your Cruise Plans
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Cruise ships worldwide sat in their ports without passengers for months during the initial COVID-19 lockdowns. While they have been sailing the seas again for over a year, safety concerns remain. In addition, what do Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cruise ship colors mean, and how do you understand the risks?

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When it comes to a cruise vacation, you have to worry about more than getting sick. If a number of people on your ship fall ill, the ship could be forced to quarantine and be turned away from ports of call, including your home port in the United States.

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Planning a cruise isn't out of the question, but you must be aware of the risks. You'll need to learn how to evaluate your potential cruise plans, and one of the crucial steps is determining what the CDC says about cruising and finding ways to stay informed as its policies change.

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Be Aware of the Risks

The CDC's Conditional Sailing Order is still in place, and there is still an elevated risk of exposure to or contraction of COVID-19 on cruise ships. If you have a compromised immune system, you may want to consider safer modes of travel for the time being.

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The bottom line is this: Traveling in close quarters with the same group of people, as you do on a cruise ship, always creates an elevated risk of getting sick. During a global pandemic, this risk is amplified even if the majority of the passengers are fully vaccinated.

CDC Cruise Ship Colors

When cruise ships began taking passengers again, the CDC instituted its COVID-19 program for cruise ships. The CDC used this program to establish an easy-to-understand color system corresponding to the number of cases on a ship. The colors are:

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  • Green:​ No reported cases.

  • Yellow:​ Number of reported cases is below the CDC's threshold for investigation.

  • Orange:​ Number of reported cases has met the CDC's threshold for investigation.

  • Red:​ Number of reported cases has exceeded the threshold, and additional measures are in place.

  • Gray:​ The ship has opted not to participate in the program, and the status is unknown.

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Color statuses can change with each expedition, so check your ship's color frequently. The CDC also cautions against booking a cruise on board a vessel not participating (gray).

Current CDC Advisories

The CDC is still encouraging caution when planning and taking cruise vacations. While there is no ban on cruise travel, it is considered high risk. You will also want to check your ship's color status and vaccination requirements before booking and departing.

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In addition, it isn't just the cruise ship itself that poses a risk; it's your ports of call as well. The CDC provides a list of recommendations and guidance for visiting various foreign countries that are standard ports of call for cruise ships.

How to Reduce Your Risks While Cruising

You can do several easy things to reduce your risk of exposure and quarantine. First of all, you'll want to ensure you're up to date on your vaccinations and booster shots. In addition, you can purchase insurance for your cruise or make sure you can cancel and receive a refund. Finally, you should verify whether your ship requires a negative test to board.

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Stay on top of updates and set up alerts or make a point to check the CDC website and other reliable sources of information regularly, especially as your trip gets closer. Stay on the ship if any of your ports of call are experiencing a surge. While on your cruise, go above and beyond routine precautions. Carry hand sanitizer and use it frequently. Avoid touching your face and spend time outdoors. When you're indoors, you should consider wearing a mask.

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