CDC Cruise Ship Status and Where Americans Can Travel

While cruises in the U.S. remain suspended and the CDC advises against traveling on cruises abroad, some voyages have resumed in other regions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including in parts of Europe, Asia, the South Pacific as well as in the Caribbean.

Following the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, cruises in the U.S. have been suspended since last year following a "no sail order" for cruise ships issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year.

The federal health body said in March 2020 it had "reason to believe that cruise ship travel may continue to introduce, transmit, or spread COVID-19."

On October 30, the CDC released its "framework for conditional sailing order (CSO)," which outlined a phased approach for resuming cruises in the U.S.

In late April, the CDC said cruises could resume operations in the U.S. from mid-July without restrictions if they can ensure nearly all passengers and crew members have been vaccinated.

Latest U.S. cruise cancelations

However, several cruise lines canceled their U.S. trips due to the industry shutdown, including most recently Princess Cruises, which is owned by Carnival Corporation, the British-American cruise operator.

In a statement Wednesday, Princess Cruises announced the cancelation of its California Coast and Mexico sailings on Ruby Princess as well as its Caribbean sailings aboard the Caribbean Princess vessel through August 21. The remaining 2021 Mediterranean season aboard the Enchanted Princess cruise ship has also been canceled.

The company said it was continuing "its discussion with various United States and Canadian government officials to try to preserve a portion of the Alaska 2021 cruise season."

On Tuesday, Carnival Cruise Line (Carnival Corporation's flagship cruise line) said it was "cancelling sailings on all other ships through July 30," following an earlier announcement in April which canceled sailings from the U.S. through June.

"Carnival hopes to begin operating sailings on three ships from Florida and Texas, including Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze from Galveston, and Carnival Horizon from Miami," Carnival said in a statement Tuesday.

In early April, Royal Caribbean extended its suspension of several voyages aboard six of its cruise ships with departure dates through June. "Our plan is to resume further operation in July," the company stated at the time.

In early April Disney also announced cancelations of U.S. sailings through June.

At this time, the CDC "still recommends avoiding any travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide," the health body warns.

"That's because the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high, since the virus appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships.

"Cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships," the CDC says.

Americans who decide to go on a cruise abroad "should get tested 1–3 days before their trip and 3–5 days after their trip, even if they are fully vaccinated," the health body advises.

Latest CDC guidance on U.S. cruises

Passenger operations were halted during the initial phases of the CSO order and were expected to remain suspended until November 1 this year.

Last week, the health body released updated guidelines for cruise lines preparing to conduct trial trips in U.S. waters, with volunteer passengers aboard.

So far, only Royal Caribbean International, which says it operates six of the world's largest cruise ships among its fleet of 24 vessels, has provided a "Volunteer of the Seas" portal for those interested in signing up to be selected to join a trial voyage.

In late April, the CDC advised that cruises could resume operations in the U.S. from mid-July without restrictions if they could ensure nearly all passengers and crew members have been vaccinated.

This Wednesday, the health body announced an update to its guidance for simulated and restricted voyages under the CSO, which relaxes some rules on masks and shore excursions for fully vaccinated passengers and crew members.

The latest guidelines state: "Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise passengers and crew that—if they are fully vaccinated—they may gather or conduct activities outdoors, including engaging in extended meal service or beverage consumption, without wearing a mask except in crowded settings."

Cruise operators may also allow fully vaccinated passengers and crew members to "engage in self-guided or independent exploration during port stops, if they wear a mask while indoors."

Where Americans can travel

On May 1, Carnival's Costa Cruises resumed cruise operations with its first sailing from Italy, kicking off its summer season, which includes voyages to parts of France, Spain and Greece.

On May 7, Carnivals' AIDA Cruises announced the company is extending its Canary Islands season through July for cruises aboard its AIDAperla vessel. Its new voyages depart from Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria on June 12, 19 and 26 this year.

Carnival's Holland America Line said on May 5 that it "has received approval to restart cruising from Piraeus (Athens) in August with four departures aboard Eurodam." Bookings for those cruises have been available since May 6.

In early April, Norwegian Cruise Line announced its return to service, with new sailings through Europe and the Caribbean starting on July 25. The company said it will begin operations at a reduced capacity aboard its Norwegian Jade, Joy and Gem vessels.

Passengers can book seven-day cruises to the Greek Isles aboard the Norwegian Jade from Athens (Piraeus) beginning July 25.

Week-long Caribbean voyages are also available from Montego Bay in Jamaica "as of Aug. 7, 2021 on Norwegian Joy or from Punta Cana (La Romana), Dominican Republic on Norwegian Gem beginning Aug. 15, 2021," the company said.

In March, Royal Caribbean announced new seven-night cruises aboard the Adventure of the Seas cruise ship that will depart from Nassau in the Bahamas starting in June. The cruise line said its new sailings will require adult guests to be "fully vaccinated against COVID-19."

Speaking to Newsweek at the time, a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean said: "We have followed the science and used our learnings about COVID-19 to develop comprehensive health and safety protocols to make cruising safer by preventing and mitigating the spread of infectious diseases, in general, and of COVID-19, in particular.

"This will continue to evolve as new research and technology becomes available," the spokesperson added.

Princess Cruises vessel May 2021
A Princess Cruises vessel anchored on the outskirts of Bahia de la Paz in La Paz, Mexico on May 8. Alfredo Martinez/Getty Images