WASHINGTON - Federal health officials are dropping the warning they have attached to cruising since the beginning of the pandemic, leaving it up to vacationers to decide whether they feel safe getting on a ship.
Cruise-ship operators welcomed Wednesday’s announcement, which came as many people thought about summer vacation plans.
An industry trade group said the move by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention validated measures that ship owners have taken, including requiring crew members and most passengers to be vaccinated against the virus.
The CDC removed the COVID-19 "cruise ship travel health notice" that was first imposed in March 2020, after virus outbreaks on several ships around the world.
However, the agency expressed reservations about cruising.
"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," CDC spokesman Dave Daigle said in an email.
Daigle said the CDC's decision was based on "the current state of the pandemic and decreases in COVID-19 cases onboard cruise ships over the past several weeks."
COVID-19 cases in the United States have been falling since mid-January, although the decline has slowed in recent weeks, and the current seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. is roughly unchanged from two weeks ago, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. States have rolled back mask mandates, putting pressure on federal officials to ease virus-related restrictions.
Cruise-ship operators have complained since the start of the pandemic that their industry has been singled out for a shutdown and then tighter COVID-19 restrictions than others, including airlines.
The Cruise Lines International Association said in a statement that the CDC's decision to remove its health warning "recognizes the effective public health measures in place on cruise ships and begins to level the playing field between cruise and similarly situated venues on land."