Cruise Ship Travel and COVID-19 Risk: What to Know



Here’s what health and travel experts say you need to know about your COVID-19 risk on cruise ships before you make any plans to set sail. The wide-spread availability of vaccines and boosters for U.S. travelers has generated a lot of renewed excitement around cruise travel of late. “Cruisers are passionate, and the pandemic presented a very long pause in that kind of travel. So, people who truly love cruising are ready to sail and have been for months,” Laura Motta, senior director of content at Lonely Planet, told Healthline.

However, the rise of the Omicron variant has taken the wind off the sails for many potential passengers, who have renewed concerns about their COVID-19 risks and the general safety of booking a cruise at this time. If taking a cruise is in your upcoming travel plans, evaluating your current COVID-19 risk while onboard may bring perspective and help you decide whether to consider postponing your trip. On December 30, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for cruise ship travelers, stating that “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.”

Before the rise of the Omicron variant, Dr. Mark Fierstein, internal medicine specialist at NYU Lan-gone Ambulatory Care Lake Success, said the risk of severe illness in vaccinated people on cruise ships appeared to be low. However, with the rise of Omicron, the risk level has increased.

The CDC states that all people, regardless of vacci-nation status, should avoid cruise travel at this time, especially those with higher chances of developing severe illness from COVID-19. “This could include people on cancer chemotherapy and also people on various immunosuppressive medications for other reasons. Also, if you have serious medical condi-tions, particularly cardiac or pulmonary disease, there might be safer vacation alternatives for you,” said Fierstein.

Additionally, the CDC recommendsTrusted Source that anyone who goes on a cruise gets tested 1 to 3 days before their trip and 3 to 5 days after their trip, regardless of vaccination status. This is because on a cruise, typically everyone is vaccinated including crew members, except for some children. In most cases, everyone is tested within 1 to 3 days of em-barkation, Fierstein said.

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