As the cruise returns, it does so under radically different protocols from when travel was suspended in March 2020. These new procedures are all designed to limit the number of cases on ships. Meanwhile, cases on earth continue to cause problems even as more and more people are vaccinated.
For cruise passengers, this can pose a number of questions. Is the cruise safe? What Are Cruise Ships Doing To Keep Passengers Healthy? Is there a way to track COVID cases on cruise ships?
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control outlines the rules and requirements for cruise ships departing from the United States under its conditional navigation order. This includes everything from policies for testing crew members to what to do if there are cases on a ship to the rules around masking and distancing.
In addition, the health agency publishes regular updates on the status of cases on cruise ships using a color-coded table. While it doesn’t provide the actual number of cases, it does tell you which vessels may have had outbreaks of the virus. This gives the public a glimpse of what is happening on all ships sailing or planning to depart from the United States.
Current status of ships color
Below is the current status of all ships. While CDC only provides last day update on its website, we’ve tracked and included the days gone by so you can see how the condition of each ship is changing. We continue to update this table regularly to track the status of each vessel over time. The CDC releases new data several times a week.
Data from September 3 (released September 7) shows that 26 of 72 ships tracked by the CDC have a “non-green” status, indicating the possibility of COVID cases in the past seven days.
Note: A status other than green does not definitely mean that cases have been found on the vessel. There are other possibilities for changing the status, which are described in the section “What the color coded status means” below.
(Click to enlarge)
Recent updates and comments
As the number of cases continues to increase ashore, the number of affected vessels is also increasing. Or at least that was the case until recently.
In mid-July, Cruzely reported that 17 vessels had “non-green” status. As of August 31, 37 ships were either yellow or orange. This represented 52.1% – or more than half – of all vessels tracked.
However, from September 1 data, a large number of vessels now have improved conditions. To date, only 26 vessels have “non-green” status, significantly lower than at the end of August.
Forty-six ships have been green since the last update. Eight ships are orange. Eighteen ships have yellow status:
Shipped with status changes since the last update:
- Carnival Dream (Orange to Green) ☝️
- Carnival Freedom (Green to Orange) 👇
- Mardi Gras Carnival (Orange to Yellow) 👇
- Ruby Princess (green to orange) 👇
Vessels deleted from the list:
Ships added to the list:
– To date, no vessel has had to stop sailing due to COVID cases on board. Cases on ships – although frequent – were largely contained thanks to protocols and vaccine requirements. That said, as more and more ships begin to sail with passengers again, we expect the number of ‘non-green’ ships to increase due to more people interacting..
– Interestingly, there was a major improvement between the August 31 and September 1 data. During our follow-up, the number of “non-green” vessels increased or decreased relatively slowly, with at most a few vessels changing status each day.
However, as of September 1, a total of 15 vessels have seen their color status improve, of which 14 have changed to green. Frankly, given that the CDC says color status is assigned based on the previous seven days of data, we don’t know how such a rapid move can seemingly happen overnight. We have contacted the agency and expect a glimpse of such rapid improvement.
Having said that, we are happy to see more ships with green status!
– The Carnival Glory has been temporarily removed from the list as the ship is participating in the disaster response following Hurricane Ida in New Orleans.
What the color coded status means
The table above tracks over 60 cruise ships across a dozen cruise lines. Every day, cruise ships wishing to depart from the United States must submit the “Enhanced Data Collection Form (EDC) During COVID-19 Pandemic”. This gives the agency insight into COVID or a COVID-like illness on the ship.
The agency then assigns one of four colors – green, orange, yellow and red – to each ship, based on daily reports. The table is updated several times a week, providing an easy color-coded way to see where there might be issues.
Colors are assigned based on the number of possible cases and the vessel’s current sailing status.
Green: No reports of COVID or COVID-like illness for seven days and on-time daily submission of EDC forms over the past week.
Orange: COVID-like illness COVID reported in the past seven days. If you are sailing with passengers, the reported level is less than 0.10% of passengers and no cases of crew have been reported. If the navigation simulates trips or crews only, the cases are less than 1.0% crew and 1.5% passengers.
Yellow: Case for more than 0.10% of passengers or one or more crew cases in the case of paid trips. If the navigation simulated trips or crew members only, then cases were reported in more than 1.5% of passengers or 1.0% of crew members. Failure to submit a daily EDC report on time also results in yellow status.
Red: Sustained transmission of disease or the possibility of cases overwhelming medical resources on board the vessel. Failure to submit a daily EDC report also results in red status.
Status is assigned based on reports submitted within the past seven days.
What cruise ships do to keep passengers and crew healthy
As cruise ships are linked to the early days of the pandemic, they have taken extraordinary steps to limit the number of cases on board. In fact, although cases have been reported regularly on ships, the total number and spread appear to be low. The number of reported cases was largely single digit.
To keep passengers healthy, cruise lines use vaccines as a cornerstone of their plan. Most sailing ships require vaccination for most passengers.
In addition to vaccines, cruise lines now require testing for all passengers before boarding, even if they have the vaccine. On the ship, masks are generally required for the interior. Ships also sail at reduced capacity.
While some lines allow a small number of unvaccinated passengers to sail, more restrictions are placed on these guests. For example, several tests are necessary before and during navigation. Travel insurance is required in many cases. Certain areas of the ship may be closed if a passenger does not have the hang of it.
We have already seen the protocols change to accommodate the growing number of cases and the new requirements of ports of call. There is no doubt that there will be more changes in store, depending on the direction of virus cases on earth.
Is it safe to take a cruise?
There is no doubt that continuing disease can spread within the confines of a cruise ship. That said, actions taken by cruise lines and the CDC are helping to limit cases so far.
In fact, the agency said on its website in mid-August that “due to this thorough and structured process, which has enabled ships to develop and evaluate protocols on board and ashore, including comprehensive plans for COVID-19 testing, CDC confident cruising can resume safely under CSO [Conditional Sailing Order].
(Note: This reference was recently removed. We have contacted the CDC to find out why and have received no response. The CDC recommends unvaccinated passengers – and passengers vaccinated, but at higher risk of complications from COVID – avoid cruise travel.)
Former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb also believes ships can navigate safely. Gottlieb is a leading pandemic expert and works with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. as co-chair of their Healthy Sail panel. This group is a driving force behind the protocols put in place by cruise lines to keep passengers in good health.
“In the meantime, the vaccines are very effective, even against the Delta variant, and Norwegian is taking the extra step by coupling the vaccines with several additional layers of protection against COVID-19, including universal testing before boarding the ship. . ” Gottlieb recently said during the quarterly investor call for NCLH.
“It goes way beyond what we see in other travel and hospitality sectors. And with the controlled environment that a cruise ship offers, it can offer one of the safest vacation options. “
In other words, if you are vaccinated and in good health, then CDC and Others Believe You Can Browse Safely Using Protocols. However, there is certainly no harm in waiting to navigate if you are uncomfortable or unavailable for the vaccine.
There is little argument that if there are cases on land then there can be cases on ships. But the good news is that with the mitigation efforts put in place by cruise lines, these cases are also more likely to be found and contained, especially compared to other places like sports arenas, airports or seaside resorts.