As of February 23, 2022.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has made its COVID-19 program optional for cruise lines traveling in U.S. waters. The majority of cruise lines operating in the United States participate in the program.

What is CDC’s COVID-19 program for cruise lines?

This is a detailed protocol governing the operation of vessels in the context of COVID-19. This protocol touches on many aspects of vessel management such as preventive measures, testing, hygiene and prevention measures, cleaning standards and record keeping of COVID-19 cases and the transmission of this data to the CDC.

How do I know if there are cases of COVID-19 on a cruise ship?

The CDC publishes a color-coded table classifying cruise ships related to the number of COVID-19 cases listed on board the ship.

  • Green: No cases of COVID-19
  • Yellow: Less than 0.3% of passengers/crew tested positive for COVID-19
  • Orange: 0.3% and more passengers/crew declared positive for COVID-19, triggering of a CDC investigation
  • Redv: 0.3% or more passengers/crew tested positive for COVID-19 and signs of uncontrolled transmissions or exceeding the capacity of care teams to manage COVID-19 cases. Additional measures are put in place.

As an indication, 0.3% of the people on board a ship would represent 9 people for a ship that can accommodate 3000 passengers/crew members.

What are COVID-19 testing protocols for cruises

The CDC requires that the following protocols be minimally adhered to, but cruise lines may have their own (more stringent) guidelines if they meet the following minimums. Check with your cruise line to get the most accurate information.

Passengers who present evidence of recovery from COVID-19 do not need to be tested. The proof is a positive test dating from 10 days to 90 days before departure. People with a positive test less than 10 days old will be refused on board.

Those who are fully vaccinated must present a negative test made 2 days before departure or a negative test on the day of boarding. These passengers do not have to be tested for disembarkation.

Those who have received their booster dose can provide a test done 3 days or less before departure. These passengers do not have to be tested for disembarkation.

If the ship changes to orange or red level, additional tests may be required during the cruise or for disembarkation.

On the other hand, to fly and cross borders, you will need to provide a negative test according to the standards in force.

What are the CDC’s recommendations for wearing a mask on a cruise

If 95% of passengers and crew members are duly vaccinated, it is not mandatory to request the wearing of masks on board or to require social distancing. Still, the CDC strongly recommends wearing a mask in indoor public spaces and respecting social distancing.

If the ship switches to orange or red status, mask wearing and social distancing may be required.

What does the CDC recommend for travelers with COVID-19 symptoms while cruising and for close contacts of these people?

These people must be isolated alone in a cabin and take their entire meal there for 5 days. The CDC recommends using tools like RFID wristbands to quickly identify significant contacts.

What if a ship goes to orange or red level?

Additional measures will be taken to strengthen the prevention of transmission. In addition to strengthening cleaning protocols, this could include:

  • Test all passengers in the middle of the trip and/or before the end of the trip, regardless of the passengers' vaccination status;
  • Require masks to be worn by all passengers and crew indoors and crowded outdoor spaces;
  • Send a written note to passengers of current, previous and subsequent journeys informing them of COVID-19 conditions and measures taken to reduce transmission on board;
  • Offer a full refund of the cruise to any passenger who decides not to sail on the next trip.