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CDC Raises Risk Level for Cruise Travel to Level 4

While conducting an investigation into health and safety protocols and effectiveness in the cruise industry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that the warning level for risk of COVID-19 on cruise vacations has increased to Level 4.

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The investigation featured 86 ships across multiple cruise lines, including Disney Cruise Line, and sought to understand how COVID can spread for passengers and crew onboard. Prior to today’s change in risk level, cruises were considered a Level 3 risk (or high) for COVID-19 and the change has moved the experiences into the highest category of Level 4 (or very high).

The CDC classified cruise vacations in the highest category when the industry first began reopening after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, cruise ships were bumped up to Level 4, however until today’s change by the CDC they had remained in Level 3 since June 2021.

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Nearly all cruise lines, Disney Cruise Line included, have rigorous vaccination requirements and testing policies in place for both Guests and crew members, often requiring multiple tests up to three days out from embarkation day and a rapid test just prior to boarding the ship. Still, the CDC states that because COVID-19 can easily spread in enclosed spaces, the risk for catching the virus aboard a cruise with lots of indoor corridors and large groups gathering indoors, the ability to catch the virus is high, even with vaccine requirements and testing.

Disney Cruise Line, along with Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and many others in the cruise industry require proof of vaccination from all eligible Guests onboard their ships, however the CDC says this is not enough and recommends that all passengers should test 1-3 days prior to sailing and 3-5 days after they return, even if they are showing no symptoms of COVID-19, and even if they have received booster shots. The CDC further advises unvaccinated Guests to quarantine for five days after returning from their cruise in addition to testing.

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Many travelers as well as industry professionals disagree with the CDC’s stance on moving cruise vacations into the highest risk category for COVID-19, arguing that the vaccination and testing requirements along with in most cases limited capacity on the ships allow for an optimally safe experience where outside factors that could bring in COVID-19 are essentially removed. The CDC however stands by its case that with the Omicron variant surging, COVID-19 can be easily spread on cruise ships, and crew and passengers should note the risk and plans their travels and testing accordingly.

In addition to proof of vaccination requirements and multiple tests, plus physical distancing and reservation times for numerous activities, Disney Cruise Line continues to operate on a limited capacity. We will update you here on Disney Fanatic if anything changes with Disney Cruise Line or guidance for the industry from the CDC.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."