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Modifications may give cruise lines more comfort opting in to CDC program

Modifications in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new COVID-19 cruise policies may make cruise lines feel more comfortable opting in to the program.

For example, according to industry sources, in one change, CDC would exclude children under 5 — who are currently ineligible for COVID-19 vaccination — from the determination of the percentage of passengers onboard who are fully vaccinated or up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.

This would be a big boost to operators that carry many young children — Disney Cruise Line, for instance — that may not have been able to qualify for the 'highly vaccinated' tier (those with 95% of the onboard population fully vaccinated), let alone highest tier 'vaccination standard of excellence' (95% of the onboard population vaccinated and boosted).

Isolation/quarantine for those up to date with vaccines

In another reported change, the isolation/quarantine rules would become independent of the three-tiered vaccination status and just depend on whether a person testing positive and close contacts are up to date with vaccines (boosted). If that's the case and they're asymptomatic, they'd have to isolate/quarantine for five days.

Anyone not up to date would still have to isolate/quarantine for 10 days or isolate/quarantine for five days and then have daily tests for another five days.

Seatrade Cruise News reached out to major cruise operators about whether they'll opt in and asked Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings if their decision to do so — announced shortly after CDC said it would create a voluntary program but before the agency shared details — would still hold. NCLH on Thursday said it was continuing to review the requirements. Other companies have not responded.

But multiple industry sources indicated modifications under discussion with the CDC would make it more comfortable for lines to opt in. 

Opt-in deadline today

Today is the deadline to do so. Stay tuned for further news. 

On Feb. 22, if lines have not informed CDC of their decision to participate in the voluntary program, their ships will automatically be designated 'gray.'

For now, only 20 ships have opted in, according to the CDC's cruise ship status dashboard.

Update: 'Major cruise groups opt in as CDC modifies COVID-19 cruise protocols'

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