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Passengers wait for the Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas cruise ship to set sail on Christmas Eve in Bayonne, N.J. Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Cruise lines are facing pressure to temporarily cease sailing as they grapple with the worst COVID outbreaks since they resumed trips in the summer.

Driving the news: The CDC on Thursday said all travelers should avoid cruises, no matter their vaccination status.

Why it matters: Cruise lines could be plunged back into crisis mode if they’re forced to hit pause or are limited to certain destinations.

  • As of Thursday, 91 ships were facing CDC probes into COVID cases. It's the most since the agency allowed cruises to begin sailing again from U.S. ports in the summer, CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed confirmed.
  • Disney, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian are among those affected despite a mix of vaccine requirements and mask rules.
  • "I feel like I just spent my past week at a superspreader event," 34-year-old passenger Ashley Peterson told the Washington Post after her ship, the Carnival Freedom, was turned away from a Caribbean port due to onboard infections.

Threat level: “Time for CDC & cruise lines to protect consumers & again pause—docking their ships,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said on Twitter. “Cruises are repeating recent history as petri dishes of COVID infection.”

State of play: The cruise industry called the new CDC travel advisory "perplexing."

  • "No setting can be immune from this virus — however, it is also the case that cruise provides one of the highest levels of demonstrated mitigation against the virus," Bari Golin-Blaugrund, spokesperson for the Cruise Lines International Association, said in a statement.
  • "Cruise ships offer a highly controlled environment with science-backed measures, known testing and vaccination levels far above other venues or modes of transportation and travel, and significantly lower incidence rates than land."

What's next: As Omicron spreads, cruise ships may be forced to impose more restrictions or pause sailing.

Go deeper

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February — FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated".
  2. Vaccines: Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers COVID testing threshold ahead of Games — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Why the Fed might want to jolt the markets

Fed chair Jerome Powell at a hearing earlier this month. Photo: Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images

So far, financial markets are cooperating nicely with the Federal Reserve's efforts to restrain inflation. They're doing the Fed's work for it by creating tighter financial conditions, in a distinctly non-panicky way.

  • But as the central bank's policymakers meet this week, an underlying question they face is whether the adjustment is happening too slowly.
Kate Marino, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views of their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of canceled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.