CDC lifts travel warning for the cruise industry two years into pandemic
The cruise industry was shut down for 15 months at the beginning of the pandemic
The CDC lifted its COVID-19 travel warning for cruises on Wednesday after two years of shifting advisories, lawsuits, and criticism from industry leaders who accused the agency of heavy-handed regulations.
The travel health notice was lowered from "very high" to "high" in mid-February, then from "high" to "moderate" in mid-March.
On Wednesday, the CDC updated its website to reflect the lifting of the travel health notice and now just recommends that future passengers wear masks, get vaccinated, wash their hands, and take other precautions before boarding a ship.
"While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings," the CDC said in a statement on Wednesday.
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When the pandemic broke out in March 2020, the CDC shut down the U.S. cruise industry altogether for 15 months. Last June, ships were allowed to resume sailing under a strict conditional sailing order.
The Cruise Lines International Association praised the CDC's decision to lift the travel warning on Wednesday saying that it will "level the playing field, between cruise and similarly situated venues on land, for the first time since March 2020."
"From the onset of the pandemic, CLIA’s cruise line members have prioritized the health and safety of their guests, crew, and the communities they visit and are sailing today with health measures in place that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting," the organization said in a statement.
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CLIA had previously expressed dismay at the CDC's warnings against cruise travel, saying in December that cruises offer "one of the highest levels of demonstrated mitigation against the virus" through a "highly-controlled environment with science-backed measures."
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Florida originally sued the CDC in April 2021 over the agency's conditional sailing order, which expired in January.
This week, Florida and several other states announced a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the federal mask mandate that requires face coverings on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.