The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has increased the COVID threat level to level 4, signifying a high risk of COVID-19, for two additional cruise destinations on August 30. Puerto Rico and St. Lucia have both been added to the list.
The list of cruise destinations that have been given a Level 4: Very High Level of COVID-19 designation is steadily growing. Besides Puerto Rico and St. Lucia, the list includes the Bahamas, St. Maarten, Aruba, Dominica, Curacao, St. Barts, Martinique, the US Virgin Islands, and the British Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico and St. Lucia at Level 4
The cruise destinations of Puerto Rico and St. Lucia have now been added to the list and fall into the “Covid-19 Very High” Level 4 category have had more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past 28 days, according to criteria the CDC outlines on its website.
The Level 3 category applies to destinations with 100 and 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days. The list does not specify or count the percentage of vaccinated individuals or hospitalizations.
Currently, for the two cruise destinations, the CDC says that travelers should get fully vaccinated before traveling.
For St. Lucia, there is slightly more information with the CDC advising that there is more risk of catching COVID due to the spreading varients. For the Caribbean island, it’s also advised to follow local protocols including wearing a mask and staying six feet apart.
The CDC’s level list should be seen as advice on whether each country can be considered safe to go to. Another critical factor is whether a country has the health and medical care capabilities that the US has.
The CDC said in a statement to the Washington Post: “Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. You may feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can still spread COVID-19 to others. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Travelers need to be aware that they can spread disease at their destination among people who may not have the same access to vaccinations and quality medical care,”
As it stands, the CDC’s guidance is just that; however, if the CDC’s guidance is coupled with the State Department, which it usually is, travelers could expect to see some other issues.
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These include, for example, travel insurance which would not cover certain events. Therefore, those going on a cruise should always check their insurance coverage with their provider if traveling to or calling at a cruise port designated as level four. The state department also warns there could be a lack of consular services in these destinations:
“In our travel information, we warn people not to visit certain high-risk countries and areas both because of local conditions and because we are limited in our ability to provide consular services in those places.”
Are Cruises Affected By The Travel Notice?
So far, the cruise lines have not been affected by the travel notice that the CDC gives out. So far, the cruise industry has mostly had to deal with guidelines that have been issued by government agencies outside the United States. For example, the Bahamas and the US Virgin Islands include a fully vaccinated mandate to cruises calling in the Islands.
Carnival Cruise Line issued a statement upon Mardi Gras‘ first call to Puerto Rico that the island would not allow unvaccinated guests off the vessel.
Are cruises affected now? No, not really. Calls for cruise ships like Mardi Gras, Vision of the Seas, and MSC Meraviglia to San Juan, Puerto Rico, should be unaffected by the notice. Neither should calls to St. Lucia be affected for Celebrity Equinox, Seabourn Odyssey, Vision of the Seas, or Viking Orion. Of course, the cruise lines could always decide to change calls if they do feel it is necessary.
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There are many more examples in which ports of call have mandates in place that often go much further than what the CDC has as protocols. And in many cases, these are countries that have received a level four designation from the agency.
For now, travelers should be aware of the notices the CDC and the State Department publish. Travel anywhere in the world does carry risk; for now, it remains the individual’s decision whether that risk is worth taking.