CDC Eases Vaccination Rules for Cruise Ships

The CDC will now classify ships with a 90% or higher vaccination rate as "highly vaccinated".

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its definition of what it means to be a highly vaccinated cruise ship this week, lowering the percentage of passengers required to get the shot.

Going forward, the CDC will consider cruise ships where 90% of passengers are vaccinated to be "Highly Vaccinated" ships, according to the agency. That is lower than the previous requirement of 95% to meet that definition.

Currently, the CDC classifies cruise ships under three categories: "Not Highly Vaccinated," which includes ships where less than 90% of passengers and 95% of the crew are fully vaccinated; "Highly Vaccinated," which includes ships where at least 90% of passengers and 95% of crew are fully vaccinated, but less than that includes people with up to date COVID-19 boosters; and the third category is having a "Vaccination Standard of Excellence," which means at least 90% of passengers and 95% of the crew are vaccinated and up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.

The Caribbean Princess With Livery sailing through Bar Harbor, Maine
Danny Lehman/Courtesy of Princess Cruises

"This update is based on modeling data," CDC spokesperson Tom Skinner told USA Today. "Getting vaccinated is the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19, and CDC continues to recommend that passengers and crew are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines before cruise travel."

As of Friday, 92 cruise ships had opted into the CDC's COVID-19 program and were all classified under the "Highly Vaccinated" category, according to the agency. No ships were classified under the "Vaccination Standard of Excellence."

The classifications apply to commercial, foreign-flagged passenger-carrying ships with at least 250 passengers.

The CDC first created these classifications after allowing its Conditional Sail Order to expire in January and making its guidance optional for cruise lines. In March, the agency then dropped its warning against cruise ship travel for the first time in two years, telling Americans to "make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings."

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.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles