While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning Thursday that people should avoid cruise ships due to the risk of COVID infection on board, cruise lines Royal Caribbean and Carnival have issued statements highlighting the health and safety standards to which they are held and insisting on cruises. do not present a higher risk than other forms of travel.
The CDC has warned travelers of all vaccination status against cruises as Omicron cases continue to rise across the country, saying the department currently has at least 90 cruise ships under investigation or observation. due to COVID cases.
Ahead of the CDC’s warning, Royal Caribbean Group issued a statement saying that in its observations, Omicron is urging people to cancel their trips and that ships are changing the schedules of events on board, but causing “symptoms significantly less severe than previous variants “.
It also said since they started offering cruises again in the spring, more than 1.1 million people have taken cruises on its ships and a total of 1,745 people have tested positive for COVID, a rate of just under 0.16%.
Additionally, Carnival Cruise Line spokesman Roger Frizzell told The Associated Press that the company has no plans to change or cancel its cruises following the CDC’s recommendation.
“Our improved health and safety protocols have proven to be effective time and time again over the past year,” said Frizzell.
The CDC has not disclosed the number of infections on the cruise ships it is investigating.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 is easily spread between nearby people on ships, and the chances of contracting COVID-19 on cruise ships are very high,” even though people are fully vaccinated and have received a recall, the CDC said.
The Cruise Lines International Association said it was disappointed with the new recommendations, saying the industry had been singled out despite following stricter health protocols than other travel sectors.
The decision “is particularly puzzling given that the cases identified on cruise ships consistently represent a very small minority of the total population on board,” according to a statement. “The majority of these cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, placing little or no burden on medical resources on board or ashore.”
In March 2020, as the coronavirus took hold in the United States, the CDC suspended all cruises for what turned out to be 15 months. Last June, it allowed ships to resume navigation under new strict conditions.
In August, as the Delta variant increased, the agency warned those at risk for serious illness despite being vaccinated not to cruise.
The CDC also recommended that passengers on Thursday get tested and quarantined for five days after docking, regardless of their vaccination status and even if they have no symptoms.
Omicron has sent cases skyrocketing to unprecedented levels across the United States, including Florida, the hub of the nation’s cruise industry. The state set a new record this week for new daily cases, with more than 58,000 registered as of Wednesday.
U.S. cruise lines have not announced any plans to stop travel, although ships have been denied entry into some foreign ports.
Royal Caribbean said 41 people were to be hospitalized and no passengers affected by Omicron had been taken to hospital.
“We don’t even like to see a single case, but our experience is a fraction of the comparable statistics of virtually any other comparable place or industry. Few companies are subject to scrutiny, regulation and disclosure requirements. so intense by so many authorities, “said Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean.
Most cruise lines require adult passengers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Ships are allowed to relax measures such as mask use if at least 95 percent of passengers and 95 percent of crew are fully immunized.
Iris Krysty, 76, from Hamburg, New Jersey, and her husband are scheduled to depart for a 10-day Caribbean cruise on January 19. This latest warning from the CDC leaves travelers like them in an unfair stalemate, she told the AP. Krysty learned on Thursday that they could only get a refund if they tested positive before the trip. Thus, they will go to avoid losing thousands of dollars – a decision their daughter and son-in-law are not happy with.
“I know they’re upset that we’re leaving, but it’s a lot of money to lose,” Krysty said. “As far as we know, we are going there and hope everything is going well.”
Janine Calfo, 55, of Salt Lake City, postponed a four-day Carnival cruise from Long Beach, Calif. To Ensenada, Mexico, earlier this month when she had a groundbreaking three-day COVID-19 case before leaving. She booked the cruise for February and is still ready to go.
“It’s my personal opinion, but it looks like the Omicron is going to be a quick burn,” Calfo, who has asthma and plans to get the booster in a few weeks, told AP. “My cruise is over 40 days away.”
She added, however, “I think I’ll plan to take out travel insurance this time around.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.