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CDC Adds No New Destinations To Highest Travel Risk Category, Though Airfare Set To Rise

For the first time in months, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not added any new destinations to its “very high” COVID-19 travel risk category. The absence of additions is a welcome sight to a category that currently contains 115 destinations, which includes hot tourist spots like France, Turkey, and Spain.

The last addition to the “very high” category came on March 21, when Madagascar — the world’s fourth largest island, located off the coast of Africa — was included. It’s just one of two total destinations added to the CDC’s fourth level since March 14, the other being the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

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The CDC has four levels of COVID-19 travel risk: level four, or “very high”; level three, or “high”; level two, or “moderate”; and level one, or “low.” Level three currently has 33 destinations, level two has 14 destinations, and level one has 36 destinations. Destinations are ranked based on the amount of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population over the last 28 days.

There weren’t zero changes across the board when looking at the four categories altogether. Level three saw five countries added Monday — which includes Bosnia, Peru, and Qatar — while level two had six new destinations added. Among those are the popular Bahamas, which have seen a 129% search increase this year when compared to 2019.

As CNN Travel notes, the amount of level four countries has seen a droppage of over two dozen the last several weeks. The surging Omicron variant contributed to a high rise in winter, with 22 countries being added to level four on Jan. 18. In late February, the total level four destinations hovered around 140. Still, level four currently contains more countries than the other three levels combined.

Another positive CDC development is their lifting of the travel advisory for cruise ships, marking it the first time this has happened since the pandemic began. The CDC moved the advisory to the highest level in late December before moving it down a category in February. There are currently 34 cruise ships that have no reported cases, and 69 cruises that are below the CDC’s threshold for investigation.

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While the outlook for travel on all fronts is gradually improving, one area that isn’t a ray of sunshine are costs. According to Hopper, international airfare costs from the U.S. currently match 2019 costs at $810/round-trip. However, predictions suggest they’re set to rise to $940/round-trip in June, a 15% jump from current prices and 5% rise from 2019 costs.

Meanwhile, U.S. domestic travel is taking a greater beating with $330/round-trip airfare, a 7% rise from 2019 costs. Domestic will continue to see spikes, with predictions calling for a 10% increase ($360/round-trip) through May. Both domestic and international airfare are expected to decline into the fall.

The increase in ticket prices can be contributed as a fight to offset costs due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, which has resulted in jet fuel prices of $3.07/gallon, the highest totals since January 2014 and up 40% from January 2022’s $2.20/gallon, Hopper noted.

Those dollar signs won’t be detering passengers, however. According to a joint report by Trip.com and the World Travel & Tourism Council, 70% of leisure travelers in major countries plan to spend more on travel in 2022 than in the past five years. The report also found that the important factor for travelers is getting the best value for their money.

Cruise Ships

Two Cruise Ships Collide, Injuring Six

The last thing you’d want to experience when vacationing on a cruise is an accident that stops the festivities and puts people in danger. But that’s exactly what happened to passengers on two cruise ships which collided today off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico, injuring six. Fortunately, nobody sustained any serious or life-threatening injuries, and both ships were deemed to be seaworthy despite the damage, meaning passengers are able to complete their cruise as scheduled. The collision of the two ships, the Carnival Glory and the Carnival Legend, was captured on video and frightened passengers, who heard the sound of cracking and shattering glass and were told to evacuate rooms close to the scene of the accident. Indeed, as can be seen in the video, much of the Carnival Legend’s dining hall was destroyed in the impact, though fortunately no one was directly struck by the colliding ship. One passenger was hurt while rooms were being evacuated, though, and five more passengers arrived at the Carnival Glory’s medical center for evaluation, having sustained minor injuries.

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As of yet, it is unclear exactly what led to the collision, which occurred around 10 a.m. this morning as one ship was maneuvering to dock and ran into the other ship which was already docked. For now, Carnival officials have advised the ships’ passengers to spend their day in Cozumel as they continue to assess the damage to the ships and manage the aftermath of the accident. According to passengers of the Carnival Glory who spoke with CNN about the incident, high winds and ocean currents were factors that led to the crash, though a full investigation has yet to be completed. While passengers who were close to the point of collision screamed as they witnessed the frightening event, most of each ships’ passengers barely noticed the crash, describing it as feeling like the boat had been jolted by a large wave. Carnival has not yet said whether it would compensate the customers who underwent the frightening ordeal for its mistake.

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While incidences like this are rare, particularly as technology and safety standards have evolved, passengers of cruise ships do occasionally find themselves in the middle of accidents that at best put a damper on their vacation and at worst threaten lives. While today’s collision is relatively minor, all things considered, more serious events have taken place on cruise ships in the past. Everybody knows that the Titanic sank after colliding with an iceberg over a century ago, but this is not the deadliest accident on a cruise ship in history; that would be the destruction of the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, which was built by the Nazis and was sunk by torpedoes fired from a Russian submarine in 1945, killing over nine thousand passengers. More recently, a generator fire left the Carnival Triumph without electricity for days, disabling the boat’s sewage system and causing the ship’s passengers and crew tremendous stress. And in 2012, the Costa Concordia, which had room for 4,200 guests, sank after hitting an underwater rock, killing 32 passengers. 

Bad Weather Traffic

Storms Threaten Holiday Travel Across US

The holidays are undoubtedly the most difficult time of the year to travel in the United States, as roughly 55 million Americans take to airports and highways to visit their families before the end of the year. This year, however, may pose even more of a travel headache than usual, as multiple storms are forecasted to hit various parts of the US this Thanksgiving. According to U.S. News, a snowstorm is expected in Colorado, Kansas, and northern New Mexico on Friday and Saturday, potentially wreaking havoc on these states’ roads. Additionally, a mixture of rain and snow is forcasted for Missouri and Maine, among other states. Much of the southeastern U.S., alongside the East Coast, is expected to be impacted by thunderstorms as well. 

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Over the weekend, the disruptive weather system is predicted to continue moving east, causing freezing rain in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Next week, rain will turn into snow in Chicago on Tuesday, and Wisconsin and Michigan will receive heavy snow on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the Northeast, temperatures will not reach freezing, but a storm system will cause rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, thankfully clearing up in time of New York’s Thanksgiving Day parade on Thursday.

Already, a winter storm in Denver has caused a 50 car pile-up, and this storm is moving from the Rockies toward the Northeast, according to ABC 7 NY. The central U.S. is predicted to be the area of the country most affected during the peak of Thanksgiving travel, but travel is sure to be disrupted throughout the country due to weather over the coming days and weeks. According to the AAA, travel during the holidays already takes four times longer than usual due to the increase in traffic, and weather will likely make this travel time even longer to the point of being nearly impossible in some areas. Even more people are predicted to travel this year than last year, as the AAA predicts an additional 1.6 million more people will travel in 2019 than in 2018, as a result of a strong economy.

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If you’re one of the millions of Americans planning on traveling this year, it would be wise to take some precautions to ensure you arrive at your destination safely and on time. According to a AAA report, the absolute worst day to travel is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, though roads are likely to see very heavy congestion all week. AAA predicts that it will receive more than 368,000 calls from motorists in need of help this holiday season, with dead batteries, lockouts, and flat tires being the most common issues. While gas prices are predicted to stay at a relatively low $2.57 per gallon this holiday, this means that more people will be motivated to drive, making congestion worse.

Many people travel to warm-weather areas during the holiday season, and this year will be no different. According to the AAA, the top three travel destinations for Thanksgiving will be Orlando, Florida; Anaheim, California; and New York, New York, with theme parks being a major attraction during the holidays. In addition to car and plane travel, travel by train, bus, and cruise ship is also expected to peak during the holiday season, though not to the same degree as the other, more popular forms of travel. Air travel in particular will be more difficult this year than last year, as the AAA predicts that air travel will grow by 4.6% this year, a substantially higher margin than any other form of travel. The most important thing to consider when traveling during the holidays, especially when weather conditions are projected to cause difficulties, is the personal safety of yourself and your passengers. As such, you should take steps to prepare for the event of an emergency if you plan to travel.