THE UNITED States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now advising people to avoid sailing regardless of their vaccination status. Previously, the CDC designated exploration at sea as a “high risk” travel activity because cases of the Omicron variant have appeared on several cruise ships.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 is easily spread between people in close proximity on ships and the chances of contracting COVID-19 on a cruise ship are very high, even if you have been fully vaccinated and have received a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” the CDC said in its advisory.

Currently, the agency is investigating COVID-19 cases on more than 90 ships. The CDC also encourages those who decide to take a cruise to “make sure” they have been fully vaccinated and receive booster vaccines and COVID-19 tests before and after their trip. Many cruise lines already require a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure.

The recommendation also refers to the Framework for Sailing Commands, which has been extended until January 15, 2022. Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean had reported positive cases of COVID-19 on board this December, prompting the re-imposition of the mask on board.

Carnival Cruises also strengthened its mask policy while implementing a no-smoking policy and rules for drinking in casinos. Royal Caribbean has also suspended its bookings for last-minute travel to ensure social distancing among guests.

The CDC’s advice and the spike in cases come just as the travel industry is starting to recover from the pandemic. Shipping lanes in the US and around the world have returned to sailing with restrictions such as testing, social distancing and vaccine requirements.

On land, the Omicron variant makes holiday plans more stressful than usual as COVID-19 positive rates spike just before Christmas and New Year’s. Cities across the United States, including New York City and Los Angeles, have implemented vaccine mandates for indoor businesses such as restaurants. [sources/photo special]