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Cruise Line Stocks Fall on CDC Warning Even Vaccinated to Avoid Ships

Royal Caribbean, Carnival. and Norwegian shares all dropped on the CDC warning.
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Cruise line stocks floundered Thursday after federal health officials advised even vaccinated travelers to avoid cruise ships due to a "very high level" of Covid-19 cases.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings  (NCLH) - Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report, Carnival  (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report and Royal Caribbean  (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report were slipping at last check.

The Centers for Disease Control raised its warning to the highest level and called upon consumers to "avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status."

The decision comes at a time when the cruise industry is slowing getting back on its feet following the pandemic shutdown. A group representing the industry called the CDC's decision "perplexing."

"Even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading Covid-19 variants," the CDC said in its alert. 

The CDC said it had received an increased number of reports of Covid-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew since the highly contagious omicron variant was identified.

"The virus that causes Covid-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships," the alert said, "and the chance of getting Covid-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a Covid-19 vaccine booster dose."

The CDC said it is actively investigating or observing 91 cruise ships following COVID-19 outbreaks on board.

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal tweeted that "our warnings have proved sadly prescient & continuously compelling."

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"Time for CDC & cruise lines to protect consumers & again pause—docking their ships," Blumenthal said. "Cruises are repeating recent history as petri dishes of COVID infection."

CDC Calls for Vaccinations, Boosters

The alert advised anyone traveling on a cruise ship to be fully vaccinated before departure and get a booster dose if they are eligible.

In addition, cruise ship travelers should get tested 1-3 days before their trip and 3-5 days after regardless of vaccination status or symptoms.

Passengers who are not fully vaccinated should be tested and self-quarantine for a full five days after their cruise.

Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian are all already requiring passengers who are old enough to be eligible for the vaccine to prove vaccination before boarding. In addition, all three also require passengers to provide proof of a negative test before boarding.

Passengers who are too young to be vaccinated have stricter pre-cruise testing requirements. All three cruise lines have been sailing with 100% vaccinated crews.

Cruise Industry Fires Back

The Cruise Lines International Association criticized the CDC's decision.

"The decision by the CDC to raise the travel level for cruise is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard—far fewer than on land—and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore," the group said in a statement.

The bulk of the cruise ship is based in Florida, which has seen a spike in Covid-19 cases.