The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new travel warning to any Americans considering taking a cruise.
The CDC warned that the chances of catching COVID-19 while on a cruise ship were particularly high regardless of vaccination status or booster shots. The agency attributes the increased risk to the close quarters aboard the ships.
“It is especially important that travelers who are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, regardless of vaccination status,” the agency said.
If people do decide to take a cruise, the CDC recommended getting vaccinated before departing and wearing masks in any shared spaces. Cruise ship passengers should get tested one to three days before departing as well as three or five days after their return even if they are fully vaccinated and have no coronavirus symptoms.
It is also recommended that passengers who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 self-quarantine for five days after travel.
Stocks in cruise lines including Royal Caribbean Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival slumped after the recommendations were made public.
Industry officials are frustrated with the agency’s recommendation.
“We’re obviously disappointed at the CDC’s decision to raise the travel level for cruise today — especially given the overwhelming level of effectiveness of cruise protocols that are resulting in significantly lower level of cases on cruise as compared to land,” said Brian Salerno, the senior vice president for maritime policy for the Cruise Lines International Association, told CNBC.
The global cruise industry has been one of the most devastated sectors of the tourism industry because of the global pandemic.
“In 2018, it was estimated that the world cruise industry was worth approximately $150 billion,” reports Industry Leader Magazine. “In the first quarter of 2019, the largest three cruise organizations reported revenues of $4.7, $2.4 and $1.4 billion with net income of $336, $257 and $118 million.”
COVID-19 and travel restrictions safety requirements that followed in its wake have cost the industry $25 billion loss in economic activity. The CLIA estimated that 215,800 European jobs and 164,000 American jobs were lost during 2020.
The CLIA has accused the CDC of targeting cruise lines even though other sectors of the tourism industry reportedly had higher rates of COVID-19.
“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,” the CLIA said in a statement on Dec. 30. “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.”
No cruise lines have announced any plans to alter or halt operations.