Cruise Ship COVID Status Tracker (December 3): Daily Update Chart & News

As cruising returns, it does so under dramatically different protocols than when trips were suspended back in March 2020. These new procedures are all designed to limit the number of cases on ships. Meanwhile, cases on land continue to cause issues even as more people are vaccinated.

For cruise passengers, that can cause a number of questions. Is it safe to cruise? What are cruise ships doing to keep passengers healthy? Is there a way to track COVID cases on cruise ships?

Currently the Centers for Disease Control outlines the rules and requirements for cruise ships sailing from the United States under its Conditional Sailing Order. This includes everything from policies for testing crew members to what to do if there are cases on a ship to rules surrounding masking and distancing.

In addition, the health agency publishes regular updates about the status of cases on cruise ships using a color-coded table. While it doesn’t provide actual numbers of cases, it does tell the public which ships have possibly had bouts of the virus. This gives insight into what’s happening on all the ships either sailing or planning to sail from the United States.

Current Color Status of Ships

Below is the current status of all ships. While the CDC only provides the latest day’s update on its website, we’ve tracked and included past days so that you can see how the status of each vessel changes. We continue to update this table regularly to track each ship’s status over time. The CDC releases new data several times per week.

Data from December 2 (posted December 3) shows 32 of 107 ships the CDC tracks have “non-green” status, indicating the possibility of COVID cases during the past seven days.

Note: A status other than green does not definitively mean cases were found on the ship. There are other possibilities for a change in status, discussed in “What the Color-Coded Status Means” below. N/A indicates a time period when the ship wasn’t tracked by the CDC.

(Click to Enlarge)

Recent Updates and Commentary

While the Delta variant continues to impact the United States, cases have peaked for the time being, but do show a rise once again. That same pattern seems to be happening with cruise ships as well. 

As of August 31, 37 ships were either yellow or orange. That was 52.1% — or more than half — of all ships tracked at the time. However, since then the percentage of ships impacted has fallen sharply.

Today, 32 ships (30%) have “non-green” status. This figure is far below the peak seen in late August, but has risen sharply since early November. In fact, the percentage of ships with orange or yellow status in November jumped from 17% to 36%, before easing some.

Seventy-five ships are green as of the latest update. Nine ships are orange. Twenty-three ships have yellow status:

Ships with status changes since last update:

  • Nieuw Amsterdam (Green to Yellow) 👇
  • Regal Princess (Yellow to Green) 👆
  • Disney Magic (Green to Yellow) 👇
  • Celebrity Summit (Green to Yellow) 👇

Ships removed from list:

  • N/A

Ships added to list:

  • N/A

– To date, no ships have had to stop sailing due to COVID cases onboard. Cases on ships — while a regular occurrence — have largely been contained thanks to protocols and vaccine requirements. Since peaking at more than 52% of ships in late August, the percentage of “non-green” vessels has dropped sharply and stayed lower despite Delta continuing to be an issue on land. However, in recent weeks there has been a rise in the number of “non-green” ships.

– Recent news stories about a new variant — “omicron” — have grabbed the attention of many. There is little concrete information about the variant just yet, however, there are concerns it could be more transmissible and possibly evade vaccines. The variant bears watching as it could impact the return of sailing in the future.

– With the extension of the Conditional Sailing Order, the CDC released some hard data surrounding cases on ships. According to the agency, between June 26 and October 21, there were 1,359 total positive cases on ships under its watch. That comes out to about 12 cases per day across the thousands of passengers and crew aboard all ships.

– Approval was recently given to vaccines for children aged 5-11. Carnival says it will encourage parents to consider vaccinations for younger kids and require the shot for entrance to Camp Ocean, its children area on the ship.

Royal Caribbean’s CEO Michael Bayley said his cruise line is “watching the situation” but hasn’t made a decision yet.

Disney Cruise Line announced it will require passengers 5+ years to have the vaccine beginning January 13, 2022.

What the Color-Coded Status Means

The table above tracks more than 100 cruise ships across more than a dozen cruise lines. Each day cruise ships that want to sail from the United States are required to submit the “Enhanced Data Collection (EDC) During COVID-19 Pandemic Form.” This gives the agency insight into COVID or COVID-like illness on the vessel.

The agency then assigns one of four colors — green, orange, yellow, and red — to each ship, depending on the daily reports. The table is updated several times a week, providing a simple color-coded way to see where there might be issues.

Colors are assigned based on number of possible cases and the ship’s current sailing status.

Green: No reports of COVID or COVID-like illness for seven days and on-time daily submission of EDC forms for the past week.

Orange: COVID of COVID-like illness reported in the last seven days. If sailing with passengers, the level reported is less than 0.10% of passengers and no crew cases reported. If sailing simulated voyages or crew only, then cases are less than 1.0% of crew and 1.5% of passengers.

Yellow: Cases for more than 0.10% of passengers or one or more crew cases if sailing paid voyages. If sailing simulated voyages or crew only, then cases reported in more than 1.5% of passengers or 1.0% of crew. Failing to submit a daily EDC report on-time also gives yellow status.

Red: Sustained transmission of illness or the potential for cases to overwhelm medical resources on the ship. Failing to submit a daily EDC report also gives red status.

N/A: Indicates no data for the ship due to it sailing outside of the United States and not under the CDC’s order.

Status is assigned based on the submitted reports for the past seven days.

What Cruise Ships Are Doing to Keep Passengers & Crew Healthy

Masking at terminal

While cruise ships are linked to the early days of the pandemic, they have taken extraordinary steps to limit the number of cases on board. In fact, while cases have been reported regularly on ships, the total numbers and spread appear to be small. 

To keep passengers healthy, cruise lines are using vaccines and testing as the cornerstones of their plans. Ships sailing require vaccination for nearly all passengers who are eligible.

In addition to vaccines, cruise lines are now requiring tests for all passengers before boarding, even if they have the shot. On the ship, masks are usually being required for indoors. Ships are also sailing at reduced capacity.

While some lines are allowing a small number of unvaccinated passengers sail, more restrictions are placed on these guests. For instance, multiple tests are required before and during sailing. Travel insurance is required in many instances. Some areas of the ship may off-limits if a passenger doesn’t have the shot.

Already we’ve seen the protocols change to adapt to the Delta variant and new requirements from ports of call. There’s little doubt that there will be more changes in store, depending on the direction of virus cases on land.

Is it Safe to Take a Cruise?

There is little doubt that unabated, illness can spread in the close confines of a cruise ship. That said, the measures taken by cruise lines and the CDC are helping to limit cases so far.

Numbers released by the CDC show about 1,350 cases on ships between June and October. That may sound like a lot, but comes out to about a 12 cases per day across all the ships sailing and hundreds of thousands of passengers and crew.

In addition, the CDC extended its health and safety rules until mid-January 2022, but then plans to shift to a voluntary program after that. In that extension, the CDC stated the following:

“While cruising will never be a zero-risk activity for spread of COVID-19, CDC has successfully worked with cruise ship operators to manage this risk and allow cruise ship operators to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk to crew members, passengers, port personnel, and communities.”

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the FDA, also thinks ships can sail safely. Gottlieb is a leading expert on the pandemic and works with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. as the co-chair of their Healthy Sail Panel. This group is a driving force behind the protocols put in place by cruise lines to keep passengers healthy.

“In the meantime, the vaccines are highly effective, even against the Delta variant, and Norwegian is taking the extra step of coupling vaccines with multiple additional layers of protection against COVID-19, including universal testing before boarding the ship,” Gottlieb recently said during quarterly investor call for NCLH.

“This goes well beyond what we’re seeing in other travel and hospitality sectors. And with the controlled environment a cruise ship provides, it can offer one of the safest vacation options.”

In other words, if you’re vaccinated and otherwise healthy, then the CDC and others do think you can sail safely — or at a reduced risk — thanks to the protocols. However, there’s certainly no harm in waiting to sail if you are uncomfortable or unavailable to get the vaccine. 

There’s little argument that if there are cases on land, then there can be cases on ships. But the good news is that with the mitigation efforts put in place by cruise lines, these cases are also more likely to be found and contained, especially compared to other places like sports stadiums, airports, or land-based resorts. 

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8 COMMENTS

  1. It appears that the Koningsdam has Yellow for the last 2 weeks of November.
    We are debating whether to take our cruise of December 12th or postpone …
    Any thoughts appreciated

    • James, it’s impossible to say. It really depends on your personal situation and risk tolerance. I will say that yellow could mean as little as one case on the ship, if it’s with a member of the crew. Unfortunately, specific numbers aren’t shared, so we just don’t know.

      The nice thing about cruises is that you do know everyone is vaccinated and tested before getting on the ship. Bottom line: cases no doubt can be found on ships, but there are also more rigorous protocols than just about anywhere else. It depends on if you’re comfortable or not with the situation.

  2. Considering a cruise on a ship recently coded as yellow (Koningsdam). That could mean they haven’t submitted their daily report, or have a certain number of crew, or percentage of passengers sick. That could mean only one crew or two passengers or many more. How can I get a report of the exact number of suspected infections?

    • So that ship has now been turned back green — indicating no possible cases in the past seven days. Unfortunately, specific numbers of cases are not released to the public.

  3. Why is the Sky Princess ship not listed? We’re interested in knowing the colors of that particular ship. Can you please assist us in getting this information? Thank you!

    • Looks like she doesn’t sail from the U.S. until November, so the ship isn’t under the CDC’s orders. Expect more insight in a few weeks.

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