CDC Offers Advice for Returning Cruise Ship Travelers

Cruise ships docked in St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands
Photo by sorincolac/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

As of April 4, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its recommendations to help U.S. cruise ship travelers get home as quickly and safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC says it is working with partners as part of the Unified Command, including Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, port authorities, local and state health departments and State Department, to respond to COVID-19 aboard cruise ships.

The CDC recommends that cruise ship travelers with no symptoms or mild symptoms disembark as quickly and safely as possible at U.S. ports of entry. Cruise line companies must get travelers directly to their homes via chartered or private transportation; commercial flights and public transportation may not be used.

For returning cruise ship travelers, the CDC recommends:

Well Travelers

Before leaving your cabin to begin ship disembarkation, put on a face mask or cloth face covering issued to you by the cruise line. Keep the face covering on from the time you leave your cabin, during disembarkation and during all air and land travel. To the extent possible, do not remove the face covering until you get to your final destination.

You should only travel with other well travelers by chartered or private transportation. Do not board a commercial flight or other public transportation. While traveling, you should spread out if space allows (six feet apart from non-travel companions, if possible). Sit next to your cruise ship travel companion(s) if you’re traveling with someone.

If you develop symptoms during travel, notify the medical staff of your symptoms and continue to wear your cloth face covering. If you are on a chartered flight without medical staff, tell the CDC Quarantine Station staff as soon as you disembark the plane.

When you arrive at your final destination, you should stay home for 14 days and monitor your health.

Travelers Who Are Ill

Before leaving your cabin, put on a face mask issued to you by the cruise line. Keep the mask on from the time you leave your cabin, during disembarkation and during all air and land travel. To the extent possible, do not remove the mask until you get to your final destination.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have confirmed COVID-19, do not travel with well travelers who have no symptoms. Cabin mates with no symptoms may accompany you if they provide written consent to the cruise line ahead of time.

If you are well enough to travel, you should only travel to your home by charter flight, air ambulance or ground ambulance, or another private vehicle that can be properly sanitized.

If you require urgent medical attention, your cruise line is responsible for arranging your transportation to a local hospital.

According to the CDC, cruise ships are often settings for outbreaks of infectious diseases because of the semi-enclosed environment and contact between travelers from many countries. Outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships pose a risk for rapid spread of disease beyond the voyage and aggressive efforts are required to contain the spread.

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