CDC Drops Cruise Ship Travel Warning Level, But Says All Passengers Should Be Vaccinated

Carnival Vista

Carnival Vista

Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Carnival Vista cruise ship

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has lowered its warning level for cruise travelers for the second time in two months after advising against all cruising earlier this year.

The agency’s rating, which was just bumped down to Level 2, still recommends all passengers be vaccinated before boarding a ship.

“Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself from severe disease, slow the spread of COVID-19, and reduce the number of new variants,” the CDC says.

A warning Level 2 is “moderate,” a significant downgrade from last year’s Level 4 (the highest danger level) when the CDC told passengers to avoid embarking on a cruise ship altogether, regardless of their vaccination status.

The CDC had previously lowered its warning to a Level 3 in February.

Odyssey of the Seas

Odyssey of the Seas

Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/picture alliance via Getty

The new classification indicates there are between 500 and 999 new COVID-19 crew cases recorded over the past 14 days on board ships.

Tests are still taking place three to five days before cruise start dates, regardless of a passenger’s vaccination status. If a passenger does test positive at any point, they are recommended to “isolate” and to keep track of their symptoms.

In the March 14 update, the CDC also made some recommendations for travelers, including wearing “a well-fitting mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when indoors (outside of your cabin) or in crowded outdoor settings.”

Cruise companies halted all sailings in the Caribbean in spring 2020 as the pandemic took hold in North America.

The CDC first issued a no-sail order on March 14, 2020 that was intended to stay in place for 30 days. At the time, several cruise ships across the world had become sources of major coronavirus outbreaks and subsequent deaths, including off the coast of Japan, Panama and Oakland, California.

Carnival Miracle cruise ship

Carnival Miracle cruise ship

Andy Newman/getty

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The latest cruise requirements coincide with with the CDC’s general mask mandate update for the U.S., announced on March 11. The framework uses three metrics to determine the “community levels” of the virus: New COVID-19 hospitalizations, hospital capacity and new coronavirus cases.

After the update, most U.S. states, including California, Illinois, New York and Texas no longer have mask mandates. According to U.S. News, the U.S. states and territories that still have mask mandates are Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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