By Paul Brady
Updated March 08, 2020
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. State Department have advised travelers to avoid cruise travel.

The State Department advisory said that “U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship.”

The CDC announcement was similarly sweeping in its language: “Because of the unusual nature of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the US government is advising US travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues, to defer cruise ship travel.” The CDC also noted that cruise ship passengers have been more susceptible to the virus because they share close quarters.

The epidemic, and COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus — which has now infected more than 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) — are having an outsized impact on the cruise industry. Thousands of passengers and crew have been sickened, including on the Grand Princess, which is scheduled to dock in California today, according to Princess Cruises, which operates the ship.

The agency also highlighted the particular risks of going on cruise ships. “To best protect these vulnerable individuals, we recommend that such individuals avoid situations that increase their risk of acquiring infections,” the CDC said. “This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships.”

The State Department also warned of travel disruptions, in addition to illness, as a reason to defer cruise travel in the near term.

“In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking,” the agency said. “While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.”

The advisories came shortly after Vice President Mike Pence visited Fort Lauderdale, a hub for the global cruise industry, over the weekend. He met with numerous cruise line executives and industry representatives, including the heads of Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and advised senior citizens with underlying health issues "to practice common sense [and] avoid activities including traveling on a cruise line," on Twitter.