The CDC has ended its COVID-19 program for cruise ships

A cruise ship approaches Juneau
The Norwegian Bliss, the first large cruise ship of the 2022 season, arrives in Juneau on April 25, 2022. (Photo by Paige Sparks/KTOO)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that as of Monday, its COVID-19 program for cruise ships is no longer in effect. 

All of the major cruise lines had voluntarily enrolled in the program. They agreed to report to the CDC daily counts of confirmed or suspected cases aboard each of their ships operating in U.S. waters, and to follow CDC protocols for reducing the risk of transmission and managing outbreaks on board. 

On its website, the CDC says cruise lines will continue reporting case counts to the agency, but the CDC will no longer share each ship’s COVID status.

Until Monday, the CDC had been publishing a daily color-coded status indicating COVID risk aboard each ship. The system was imprecise, potentially grouping ships with a handful of cases in the same category as ships with hundreds. 

On its website, the CDC now says cruise travelers can contact their cruise lines directly about outbreaks during their trips. Earlier this summer, travelers said cruise lines kept them in the dark during their cruises as COVID outbreaks spread on board.

Cruise lines participating in the CDC program also had to sign agreements with the port communities they visit. The agreements lay out more protocols for reducing risk and managing outbreaks, with an eye on the impact that outbreaks could have on those communities. For example, the port agreements in Southeast Alaska say cruise passengers or crew members requiring hospitalization from COVID are supposed to go to Seattle for treatment. 

In Juneau, Deputy City Manager Robert Barr learned about the CDC’s change after a KTOO reporter called seeking comment. Barr wasn’t certain but says he thinks the port agreements will remain in effect. 

The website Cruise Critic reports that the reaction on its message boards was mostly positive, and that Cruise Line International Association welcomed the development. 

Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.

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