What happened

Cruise line stocks Royal Caribbean (RCL 3.25%), Carnival (CCL 1.81%) (CUK 2.04%), and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH 1.37%) raced ahead Monday, the first trading day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance for Americans wanting to travel after receiving COVID-19 vaccines, and published technical guidance for the cruise lines in particular.

At 11 a.m. EDT today, Royal Caribbean stock was up 4%, Carnival 5.4%, and Norwegian 7.6%.

3 cruise liner ships lined up abreast in port

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

On Friday, in the first substantive update of its framework for a resumption of cruising issued last November, the CDC cited "recent studies evaluating the real-world effects of vaccination" and said that based on these studies, fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves.

The CDC clarified that a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last recommended dose of vaccine, noting that at that point, travelers no longer need to undergo COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine to travel. The CDC did, however, qualify that statement by saying travelers should continue wearing a mask, socially distancing, washing hands frequently, and avoiding crowds.  

Now what

A few other qualifications should be mentioned. When traveling internationally, although the CDC will not require proof of a negative coronavirus test for vaccinated travelers, their destination country may. Similarly, while the CDC will not require self-quarantine upon returning to the U.S., their state or locality of arrival may require this.

Before coming home, even vaccinated travelers must show a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight (but, apparently, not before boarding a ship). And three to five days after arriving back in the U.S., whether by plane or by ship, they must take another COVID-19 test.

Regarding cruise lines in particular, the CDC's new technical guidance recommends -- but does not require -- that passengers be vaccinated. It also permits cruise lines to begin preparing to conduct simulation voyages that will test their health and safety protocols and operational procedures on volunteer passengers. The guidance also requires 30-day notice prior to running such a test cruise, and sets a 60-day deadline to apply for a conditional sailing certificate before resuming regular cruising.

At least one cruise line jumped at the chance to respond to the CDC's tentative green light. Norwegian Cruise Line announced today that it is ready to resume cruising, and will require that all guests and crew be fully vaccinated before they board its ships -- at least during the initial relaunch phase of cruising. The company added that it plans to resume cruises from U.S. ports in July.