On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ended its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships. The program consisted of a number of measures to mitigate the spread of coronavirus on cruises. Cruise lines were required to test all passengers and crew before boarding or disembarking in the United States, and follow specified quarantine protocol. Cruise companies are now expected to craft their own COVID-19 programs.
The CDC website states:
“CDC has worked closely with the cruise industry, state, territorial, and local health authorities, and federal and seaport partners to provide a safer and healthier environment for cruise passengers and crew. Cruise ships have access to guidance and tools to manage their own COVID-19 mitigation programs.”
The CDC will also stop case reporting because there will no longer be uniform testing programs across all participating cruise lines.
Infamously, cruise ships have been a breeding ground for coronavirus outbreaks throughout the pandemic. The Diamond Princess had one of the first major COVID outbreaks in February 2020. Of the 3,711 people on board the Princess Cruises-operated ship, 712 tested positive with as many as 14 people dying as a result.
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It’s expected that cruise operators will create COVID protocols that will increase the amount of passengers on its ships. The world’s three largest cruise lines, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, all had share price increases with the CDC’s announcement of the program’s end. Azamara, a Miami-based cruise company, announced that it will end its embarkation COVID-19 testing requirement on July 25th. President of Azamara, Carol Cabezas said, “The easing of our testing policy marks a step in the right direction towards a return to normalcy for the travel and cruising industry.”
Azamara will still require that all passengers 12 years old and older are vaccinated, but it doesn’t quite put me at ease that cruise ships won’t devolve into floating petri dishes. During the last two weeks of 2021, there were over 5,000 confirmed cases aboard cruise ships.