Travel industry reports increase in bookings as CDC issues new guidelines for cruise ships and passengers


CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) – The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines for cruises. The agency now says anyone at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 should not cruise even if they are fully vaccinated.

This group includes people with underlying health conditions, pregnant women, recently pregnant women and the elderly.

While the ships haven’t set sail in Charleston for about 18 months, those who choose to take a vacation cruise are heading to Florida instead of the Lowcountry.

For Eric Amaral, a Mount Pleasant resident who is preparing to leave for his first cruise since the pandemic, he says he is frustrated that the rules before getting on board keep changing.

Booking this cruise was supposed to be a sigh of relief to get back to normal.

Eric Amaral, Cruise Ship Passenger

Amaral says for his trip they must have proof of a negative COVID test 3 days before boarding. If you are fully vaccinated he says there will be more freedom to do certain things like going to the mainland. However, if you are not fully immunized, you must have proof of travel insurance and will need to stay in a certain location.

Testing is part of CDC guidance, but the new guidance for those who book for cruise lines means cruising is making a comeback.

For Matt Walker, the owner of Caribbean Recess, a travel agency grown in the Lowcountry, he said this year, they only have a dozen reservations for the rest of the year. Typically, they have between 50 and 100 reservations on the Carnival ‘Sunshine’ outside of Charleston alone.

But as they wait for the “Sunshine” to return to Charleston, places like Florida, San Juan and Alaska welcome cruisers on board. No matter where you go, Walker says it’s best to take precautions.

Whether it’s masks, whether you can get around the ship without touching a handrail, I always think it’s a great idea no matter when you’re sailing.

Matt Walker, Caribbean Recess Owner

But Amaral says he wishes more could be done for the safety of those on board.

He says his ideal situation would be “if they wouldn’t allow unvaccinated people on the cruise – that way there wouldn’t be that uncertainty.”

As of Tuesday, there are no cruises departing from Charleston until 2022.

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