CDC Sets Cruise Travel Health Notice Increased to Level 4 – Very High Level of COVID-19 Status

On December 30, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set the travel heath notice status for cruise travel to Level 4: Very High Level of COVID-19 (archived link) from level 3. The CDC’s heightened travel notice reflects increases in cases onboard cruise ships since identification of the Omicron variant.

CDC Cruise Ship Travel Notice Level 4 Upgrade 20211230

Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to CDC. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of cruise ships meeting the COVID-19 case threshold for CDC investigation (i.e., Yellow status on the Cruise Ship Color Status webpage).

Additionally, the CDC is recommending people avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination statusThe agency goes on to recommend to those who choose to travel on a cruise ship, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel and get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose if you are eligible.

Currently, Disney Cruise Line continues to require all vaccine-eligible Guests (based on US eligibility requirements) to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at the time of sailing. This will be a requirement for all Guests (US and international) ages 5 and older for sailings beginning on and after January 13, 2022.

I recently learned, Disney Cruise Line is the only cruise line that uses PCR testing for all guests on the day of embarkation at the port. As a result of these efforts, a number of positive cases have been identified and prevented from coming aboard the the ships. In addition, all guests 12 and over must be fully vaccinated to sail and by Jan. 13, this will be expanded to all guests ages 5 and over.

Disney Cruise Line’s Cast & Crew are fully vaccinated, and booster shots are offered to those who are eligible per CDC guidelines. Onboard, masks are required in all indoor spaces, social distancing is enforced, and the ships are undergoing enhanced cleaning, among other protocols, which I have been told will continue moving forward.

Disney Cruise Line is also testing of Cast and Crew Members multiple times a week to enable the line to quickly identify and enact the appropriate protocols when a case is identified.

Along with the update, the CDC shared the following information for cruise ship travelers.

  • Avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status.
  • Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.
  • The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose.
  • Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships.
  • If you travel on a cruise ship, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel and get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose if you are eligible.
  • People who go on a cruise should get tested 1–3 days before their trip and 3–5 days after their trip, regardless of vaccination status or symptoms.
  • Along with testing, passengers who are not fully vaccinated should self-quarantine for a full 5 days after cruise travel.  
  • People on cruise ships should wear a mask to keep their nose and mouth covered when in shared spaces. While CDC is exercising its enforcement discretion under CDC’s Mask Order to not require that persons wear a mask under certain circumstances on board foreign-flagged cruise ships subject to the Temporary Extension & Modification of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), including onboard cruise ships choosing to follow the requirements of the CSO on a voluntary basis, individual cruise lines may require travelers (passengers and crew) to wear masks on board the ship.

Level 4 was added to the CDC’s scale over a year ago on November 21, 2020, when the CDC adapted its 3-level notice system to a new 4-level system for COVID-19 and updated criteria used to determine Travel Health Notices (THNs) levels. The 4-level system categorizes destinations, including international destinations and United States Territories, into the following four levels:

  • Level 4: Very high level of COVID-19
  • Level 3: High level of COVID-19
  • Level 2: Moderate level of COVID-19
  • Level 1: Low level of COVID-19

For the most up to date information from the CDC on this topic, please visit the CDC’s COVID-19 and Cruise Ship Travel page.

In a tweet, CLIA responded to the CDC’s elevation by saying saying they they are disappointed with the decision as they find it perplexing given the small percentage of cases on board compared to those on land with the majority of cases asymptomatic or mild in nature. Below if CLIA’s full statement.

CLIA Statement CDC Level 4 20211230
CLIA Statement Regarding CDC Elevating to Level 4
Warning Against Cruise Travel
30 December 2021
The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly
perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently
make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard-far fewer
than on land-and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild
in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or
No setting can be immune from this virus-however, it is also the case
that cruise provides one of the highest levels of demonstrated mitigation
against the virus. Cruise ships offer a highly controlled environment with
science-backed measures, known testing and vaccination levels far above
other venues or modes of transportation and travel, and significantly
lower incidence rates than land.
While we are disappointed and disagree with the decision to single out
the cruise industry-an industry that continues to go above and beyond
compared to other sectors-CLIA and our ocean-going cruise line
members remain committed to working collaboratively with the CDC in
the interest of public health and safety.

6 Replies to “CDC Sets Cruise Travel Health Notice Increased to Level 4 – Very High Level of COVID-19 Status”

  1. Shari

    I got of the Fantasy less than two weeks ago and I have never seen the ship so clean. I travelled with my 87 year old mom and not once did I feel we were not being protected. In the theater it was every other row and 3 seats between families. At dinner every family had their own table(it was sad not to have table mates). Masks were warn by everyone. They limited the number of people everywhere including in the pool. I hope they dont shut cruising down again. Maybe certain cruise lines are not doing what they need to do but Disney certainly is.

    1. Lois

      I agree with you Shari. I recently got off the Disney Magic…my 31st Cruise with DCL. DCL is being extra vigilant in following safety protocols, and all guests were in compliant with mask wearing and social distancing. I was very disappointed in the latest notice from the CDC.

      1. jerry292

        So even though everyone is vaxxed and wearing their masks and socially distancing, testing, and being nice and compliant….the virus is still spreading. That’s why the CDC put out that notice. The virus is going to spread regardless what the cruise lines do. COVID is never going away. That’s a reality a lot of people are in denial about.

  2. Collette Thornton

    We traveled on B2B on the Dream middle of Dec. They were all professional and made sure everyone was tested and had their shots. People wore their masks inside at all times, except eating and outside when not crowded. The shows were great and spaces between the rows was great. We, had to have 4 tests, being Canadian and flying and they were all negative. They crew and testers were all great and friendly. If the other cruise lines would have done what Disney did , this would not be happening, I bet.


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