The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped reporting coronavirus levels for cruise ships in U.S. waters, ending a pandemic-era program that allowed the public to monitor the spread of the virus at sea.
A notice posted on the CDC website for cruise travel said the program ended Monday. A sortable color-coded chart and spreadsheet that detailed the level of spread on ships is no longer viewable on the webpage, the agency confirmed.
"CDC has determined that the cruise industry has access to the necessary tools (e.g., cruise-specific recommendations and guidance, vaccinations, testing instruments, treatment modalities, and non-pharmaceutical interventions) to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 on board," CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said in an email.
A statement posted in an FAQ section of the CDC's cruise travel page says the agency ended the program because it "depended upon each cruise line having the same COVID-19 screening testing standards, which may now vary among cruise lines." The site says cruise lines will continue to report coronavirus cases to the agency.
Without publicly available coronavirus data, the CDC's page for cruise travel says customers "have the option of contacting their cruise line directly regarding outbreaks occurring on board their ship."
In January, the public health agency turned the mandatory rules that cruise lines had to follow during much of the pandemic into recommendations for a program in which they could opt in. Those rules included testing and vaccination requirements for passengers and crew.
Nordlund said cruise lines "will determine their own specific COVID-19-related requirements for cruise travel, as well as safety measures and protocols for passengers traveling on board based on CDC recommendations for reducing the risk of COVID-19."
Royal Caribbean requires all travelers 12 or older to be vaccinated and present a negative test result no more than two days before boarding. On Carnival cruises, guests 2 and over must test negative no more than 72 hours beforehand; guests must also be vaccinated or obtain a vaccine exemption from the company.
Earlier this month, Norwegian Cruise Line dropped its testing requirement. All guests 12 and over are still required to be vaccinated.
Anne Madison, a spokesperson for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), said the association expects to receive new guidance from the CDC later this week.
"We look forward to reviewing the details, which we understand will be posted on the CDC website in the coming days," Madison said in an email. "This is an important step forward in the CDC aligning the guidelines for cruise with those it has established for other travel, hospitality and entertainment sectors."
As part of its program, the CDC displayed a list of the vaccination status and color status - indicating whether there are reported coronavirus cases on board - of participating cruise ships. As of Wednesday, 93 of the 94 ships reporting coronavirus data to the CDC were under observation because they met the threshold for investigation (cases in 0.3% of total crew members and passengers).
In late March, the CDC dropped its coronavirus warning for cruises. It had included notices for cruise ships since March 2020, when cruise lines stopped sailing from U.S. waters for more than a year.
The Washington Post's Hannah Sampson contributed to this report.