The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has increased its travel advisory for multiple cruise destinations, including the Bahamas, St. Kitts, Grand Turk and St. Maarten. It comes as the Omicron variant continues to spread across Caribbean nations.
CDC Says to Avoid Travel
The CDC is at it again with another round of updated travel advisories in relation to COVID. On January 18, the agency elevated 22 countries to level 4, its highest advisory level for travel. Included in the update were some popular cruise destinations, some being major Caribbean cruise hubs.
The cruise destinations that have been elevated to level 4 are the Bahamas, St. Maarten, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Bermuda, Grenada, Panama, British Virgin Islands and the Turks & Caicos Islands. Australia was also added to the level 4 list; however, cruise operations there have remained on hold since the industry-wide suspension first started in Spring 2020.
The CDC says for the Bahamas, “Because of the current situation in the Bahamas, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.” It also says to “avoid travel to the Bahamas,” which is the same case for all nations currently at level 4.
Before the update on January 18, the Bahamas was at level 3, along with several other cruise destinations. In the lower level, the CDC only advises that travelers should make sure they are fully vaccinated before travel, there is no wording to “avoid travel.”
It’s Just an Advisory
Despite the CDC elevating the level for many cruise destinations, especially across the Caribbean, it is just an advisory. Cruise operations to these countries can continue as expected, and people can still travel.
In reaction to continue increased travel notices, Julia Simson who is the President & CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council said,
“While we welcome the expiration of the CDC’s conditional sail order, its decision to continue elevated travel health notices is nonsensical. The cruise industry has proven time and again that its enhanced health and safety protocols consistently achieve significantly lower rates of COVID-19 occurrence than onshore.”
“WTTC calls upon the CDC to stop singling out the cruise industry with harmful and unnecessary measures. Cruise lines have an excellent record for health and safety, and cruising continues to offer extraordinary travel experiences.”
It does provide mixed messages to those wanting to travel and for cruises. The only way cruise ships can be stopped sailing to specific ports is by the local authorities in each country, including any entry requirements that may be in place.
It comes just days after the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order ended on January 15, and cruise lines could opt-in to follow its guideline voluntarily. Norwegian Cruise Line and Holland America Line have already announced that they remain committed to following the CDC guidelines to ensure guests and crew remain safe.
On December 30, 2021, the CDC also elevated its Cruise Travel Advisory, advising against all travel onboard cruise ships regardless of vaccination status. Even though cruise lines have better protocols in place than many establishments on land, it came during the height of the Omicron variant and a time when some vessels were being denied at ports.
Despite the advisory, cruising has continued, and that will be the same case following more cruise destinations now back at level 4.