This update to CDC's COVID-19 operations manual is a change from the prior guidance that prohibited self-guided or independent exploration by passengers during port stops.
Allowance for fully vaccinated travelers
Now the agency has made the allowance for fully vaccinated travelers, while also stating that cruise operators should 'consider prohibiting self-guided or independent exploration during port stops by passengers and crew who are not fully vaccinated.'
The agency noted that 'Participating in shore excursions and group transportation increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 by bringing people in close contact with others, often for prolonged periods. Additionally, participating in these activities in other communities and countries with high prevalence of COVID-19 further increases the risk of introduction of COVID-19 onto cruise ships.'
Recommendation to limit excursions to Level 1 countries
CDC recommended that operators limit shore excursions at foreign ports to countries listed as Level 1: COVID-19 Low in CDC's travel guidance.
Currently, destinations including Bahamas, Antigua, Barbados and St. Maarten, where some cruise ships are going to be sailing outside the CDC's purview, are at Level 4: COVID-19 Very High.
Outdoors mask policy change for vaccinated travelers
In a guidance change related to masks, CDC said fully vaccinated passengers and crew may gather or conduct activities outdoors, including engaging in extended meal service or beverage consumption, without wearing a mask except in crowded settings.