CDC has big news for Royal Caribbean, Carnival and the cruise industry

While covid hasn’t gone away (and may never go away), vaccines, treatments, and other measures have slowly disappeared.

Quarantines and lockdowns have ended. Then the United States slowly dropped mask requirements everywhere except when traveling by plane, bus, and train. And finally, even these rules were recently abandoned.

Now only international travel and the cruise industry still require covid testing. International travelers had to take a covid test no more than a day before entering the United States

Cruise passengers sailing on Royal Caribbean International (RLC) – Get the Royal Caribbean group reportCarnival Cruise Lines (CCA) – Get Carnival Corporation reportNorwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get the report from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.and any other cruise lines sailing from US ports that have opted in to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s voluntary regulatory program must test no more than two days before their cruises.

This requirement added a level of hassle to taking a cruise. But that’s not the only covid testing requirement affecting the US cruise industry. Dropping covid testing requirements for international travel will help the industry, and that’s something the CDC just did.

CDC brings international travelers back

The CDC – after much pressure from the travel industry – has decided to no longer require covid testing for international travelers. The rule will be discontinued from 00:01 on June 12.

This is a very big deal for Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian and other cruise lines, as it makes cruising much more possible for international travelers looking to cruise from US ports.

“In 2019, more than one million guests from Canada sailed from a US homeport, 570,000 guests from Brazil sailed from a US homeport and 280,000 from Mexico, the Caribbean and America central,” Cruisehive reported.

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“Removing testing requirements for entry into the United States will eliminate most of the worries customers have about traveling to the United States for a cruise. It would make travel more accessible and open up the cruise market to at least 2 million potential passengers.”

That’s great news for the industry, but the CDC’s changes don’t end the testing requirements that Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian and other cruise lines have opted into. So while international travelers could enter the United States without any testing, they will still need to take a test no more than two days before their cruise.

When will the CDC testing requirement for cruises be removed?

Cruise lines don’t have the clout of airlines, hotels, and even theme parks because they’re not US-based companies.

They also have a geography problem. While people can catch covid in hotels, on planes, and at theme parks, they usually don’t stay in those places very long.

But if they get sick during or shortly after a cruise, it’s pretty clear where they got infected. For cruise lines, where seven-day (or even longer) experiences are common, a week gives someone enough time to catch covid and show symptoms on board, which creates a risk of spread.

Basically, much of the travel industry has plausible deniability and cruise lines don’t. So Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian did not push to publicly test the requirement changes while their hotel and airline colleagues did.

Changing covid testing rules for cruises isn’t something former Food and Drug Administration chief Scott Gottlieb, a doctor who is chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ SailSafe Council, expects to happen immediately.

Gottlieb does, however, have a timeline for the period to go away.

“The short answer to the question is: I think it’s some kind of spring [2023] thing from a CDC policy standpoint,” he said.