"Travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings."
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Aerial of the NCL Escape sailing in St Thomas
Credit: Danny Lehman/Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has removed its warning against cruise ship travel, no longer cautioning against boarding a ship for the first time in two years.

The agency, which updated its webpage about cruise ship travel during COVID-19 on Wednesday, removed all mentions of its level system, which the agency typically uses to classify destinations based on the COVID-19 situation. CDC spokesperson Dave Daigle told USA Today the decision was made based on the current state of the pandemic as well as a decline in cases on cruise ships over "the past several weeks."

"CDC is removing the COVID-19 Cruise Ship Travel Health Notice," Daigle said. "Travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings."

A representative for the CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Travel + Leisure.

Tom McAlpin, the CEO of Virgin Voyages, told T+L in a statement he was "absolutely thrilled" with the decision to drop the warning.

"While we feel this was a long time coming, we recognize this move as a demonstration of all of the hard work this industry has done to ensure that we're offering the safest way to travel," McAlpin said. "It's refreshing to see them meet us where we're at, and clearly where our consumers are at considering the major uptick in demand we've seen."

The move comes about two weeks after the CDC lowered its warning against cruise ship travel to a "Level 2" out of four. That in itself was a significant downgrade from last year when the agency told Americans to avoid embarking on a cruise ship altogether, regardless of their vaccination status.

Currently, the CDC recommends all travelers are "up to date" with their COVID-19 vaccination before boarding a cruise. The agency is now also recommending all travelers who are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 "talk to your healthcare provider about what additional precautions may be needed before, during, and after travel."

The agency said travelers who do decide to board a cruise should get tested "as close to [the] time of [the] cruise departure as possible" and no more than three days before travel. Additionally, the CDC said travelers should get a COVID-19 viral test three to five days after the cruise, regardless of their vaccination status.

In January, the CDC allowed its Conditional Sail Order to expire, making its guidance optional for cruise lines. In the weeks following, several companies relaxed onboard masking and vaccination policies, including Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Line, but several ships still require pre-travel testing, including all three of these lines.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.