Update: Cruise lines drop COVID-19 testing

Following last month’s announcement the CDC was ending its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, more and more cruise lines are dropping COVID-19 testing.

Since the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) lifted it’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships last months, more and more cruise lines are adjusting their health and safety protocols for cruises departing from U.S. ports.

AZAMARA

Azamara first announced the removal of its COVID-19 embarkation testing requirement. “The easing of our testing policy marks a step in the right direction towards a return to normalcy for the travel and cruising industry,” said Carol Cabezas, President of Azamara. From July 25 on the boutique cruise line no longer requires pre-cruise COVID-19 testing for guests, excluding ports where pre-travel testing is still needed in accordance with country regulations. Azamara however highly recommends guests get tested prior to travel but those results will not be required to board an Azamara vessel. In ports where testing is required in accordance with country regulations, guests will still need to produce a negative COVID-19 test before sailing. Furthermore Azamara does requires all guests 12 years of age or older to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before sailing.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINEOCEANIA CRUISES and REGENT SEVEN SEAS CRUISES

Prior to the CDC’s decision to lift its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (Norwegian Cruise LineOceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises) announced it would no longer require guests to complete pre-cruise COVID-19 testing unless required by local regulations. As a result from August 1 onwards NCL, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas no longer require guests to complete pre-cruise COVID-19 testing except for guests on voyages departing from destinations with local testing regulations, including the U.S., Canada, Greece and Bermuda.

Update 8 August 2022: Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has revised its SailSAFE health and safety protocols. Effective 3 September 2022 vaccinated travellers will not need to test prior to embarkation, subject to local regulations. Unvaccinated travellers may embark with a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test from a lab or pharmacy taken within 3 days prior to embarkation, subject to local regulations. Testing and vaccination requirements will differ for guests travelling on voyages departing from destinations with specific local health regulations, including but not limited to Canada, Greece, the Bahamas and Bermuda.

VIRGIN VOYAGES

In response to the CDC’s decision, Virgin Voyages decided to remove pre-embarkation testing for sailings aboard Valiant Lady from July 24 in Europe, and from July 27 on US sailings aboard Scarlet Lady. The cruise line however is still requiring that the majority (90%) of guest be vaccinated, but is opening its voyages for a limited number (10%) of unvaccinated guests. Unvaccinated guests are required to bring a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24-hours, or at the terminal for a fee of $30 on their embarkation date.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL, CELEBRITY CRUISES and SILVERSEA CRUISES

In a statement Jason Liberty, president and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Group (Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises) said: “Starting August 8, testing will be required for unvaccinated guests on all voyages and for vaccinated guests only on voyages that are six nights or longer.”

Update10 August: Royal Caribbean is introducing their updated policy from September 5 on sailings from Los Angeles, Galveston, New Orleans and the line’s European homeports. For other homeports the current vaccination requirements remain in place until further notice. Unvaccinated guests are welcome as long as they meet testing requirements. In Grand Cayman, for example, guests will only be able to disembark with a valid vaccination card. In Greece or Spain guests that are not up to date on their vaccination will need to take a COVID-19 test aboard.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINE

Carnival Cruise Line announced they are adjusting certain protocols to reflect the lifting of CDC requirements for the U.S. cruise industry. The changes will be made in phases and are focused on short cruise itineraries of 5 nights or less. Effective for embarkations on or after Thursday, August 4 Carnival will no longer require pre-cruise testing for fully vaccinated guests booked on cruises with itineraries 5 nights or less. Pre-cruise testing for itineraries 6 nights or longer can be conducted three days before departure. The cruise line also announced there will be no in-terminal testing for unvaccinated guests on day of departure, but all unvaccinated guests ages 2 and older must provide proof of a negative result of a lab-administered or supervised self-administered antigen COVID test taken within three days before embarkation. Pre-cruise testing is however still required for all guests on all cruises that call on ports in The Bahamas (including the cruise line’s private island destinations Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays), Bermuda or Grand Cayman.

Update 12 August 2022: Effective for cruises departing on September 6, 2022 or later, vaccinated guests must continue to provide evidence of their vaccination status prior to embarkation. Pre-cruise testing is no longer required, except for cruises to Canada, Bermuda, Greece and Australia, and on voyages 16 nights or longer. Unvaccinated guests are welcome to sail and are no longer required to apply for a vaccine exemption, except for cruises in Australia or on voyages 16 nights and longer. Unvaccinated guests or those who do not provide proof of vaccination must present the results of a negative PCR or antigen test taken within three days of embarkation. Guests under the age of five years are exempt from vaccination and testing requirements from the United States and under the age of 12 from Australia. Voyages 16 nights and longer will continue to have vaccination and testing requirements that are specific to the itinerary.

PRINCESS CRUISES

For sailings from the U.S. and Canada, Princess Cruises welcomes both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests (up to 10 % of guests). Vaccinated guests must have received their final dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before the beginning of the cruise and provide acceptable proof at terminal check-in. At terminal check-in guests must provide proof of a negative viral COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) taken before or at embarkation. For cruises that begin, end or visit Canada the company requires guests ages 12 and above who are not Canadian citizens be fully vaccinated, unless they are granted a medical exemption. For sailings from the United Kingdom vaccinated guests must have received their final dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days, as well as a booster for guests 18 and older, before the beginning of the cruise and provide acceptable proof at terminal check-in. All guests ages five and older must take a viral COVID-19 self-administered Antigen or medically observed PCR test within three days prior to embarkation on the ship. Guests no longer need to provide a test certificate, however they will be asked to confirm that the test has been taken, with a negative result. In Europe Princess Cruises continues to operate highly-vaccinated cruises. In addition, where local regulations allow, is managing an exemption process for guests 12 and older, that supports medical, religious and other guest considerations. Fully vaccinated guests must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination (with the dates of doses received) at the terminal prior to boarding. Failure to provide this evidence will result in denial of boarding. Children under five may be booked and are not required to take a pre-cruise COVID-19 test. Children ages five to 11 can sail if they are fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative PCR test taken within three days of embarkation at the terminal before boarding and follow all other requirements for unvaccinated guests. In Australia Princess is operating sailings with at least 95% of guests fully vaccinated. These cruises are available for guests who have received their final dose of an Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) approved or recognised COVID-19 vaccine, with the last dose being administered at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and can provide proof of vaccination. In addition, where local regulations allow, Princess is managing a process for exemptions. Guests with medical contraindications to the vaccine and children under the age of 12 who are not fully vaccinated are permitted to travel, subject to pre-approval by Princess Cruises. Fully vaccinated guests must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination (with the dates of doses received) at the terminal prior to boarding. Failure to provide this evidence will result in denial of boarding. At terminal check-in guests must attest to a negative viral COVID-19 test (PCR or rapid antigen) taken before embarkation.

Update August 12, 2022: Starting September 6, vaccinated guests sailing on voyages of less than 16 days with the exception of Panama Canal transits, trans-ocean and other special itineraries will no longer have to test before boarding and only need to upload proof of vaccination. Unvaccinated guests, or those who do not provide proof of vaccination, on those itineraries will self-test within three days of sailing and upload proof of a negative test before boarding. Guests sailing on voyages 16 nights or longer, or sailing on full Panama Canal transits, trans-ocean and other specific itineraries, need to take a supervised test within three days of embarkation (guests 5 and older). These new guidelines apply to itineraries from all departure ports except where government regulations and protocols may vary like Canada, Greece and Australia. For sailing from the United Kingdom, vaccinated guests must have received their final dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days, as well as a booster for guests 18 and older, before the beginning of the cruise and provide acceptable proof at terminal check-in. At terminal check-in guests must attest of a negative viral COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) taken at any time in the three days before the day of embarkation. A limited number of unvaccinated guests are welcome on a first-come, first-served basis. For sailings ailings from Europe: Vaccinated guests must have received their final dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before the beginning of the cruise and provide acceptable proof at terminal check-in. Boosters are highly recommended for those eligible. At terminal check-in guests must provide proof of a negative viral COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) taken before or at embarkation. Following local regulations, Princess is managing an exemption process for guests 12 and older, that supports medical, religious and other guest considerations for unvaccinated guests.

MSC CRUISES

Beginning August 8, 2022, fully vaccinated guests sailing 5 nights or less aboard MSC Cruises are no longer required to take a COVID-19 test. Fully vaccinated guests sailing 6 nights or longer from U.S. ports will need to show proof of a lab-administered negative COVID-19 viral test taken within 3 days of embarkation. Unvaccinated guests 2 years and older will need to show proof of a lab-administered negative COVID-19 viral test taken within 3 days of embarkation for all cruises from U.S. ports. The cruiseline recommends guests to test within 1 day of departure, when possible.

Update 5 August 2022: MSC Cruises’ updated policy will now go into effect for cruises embarking from U.S. ports beginning August 29, 2022, pending destination requirements.

CUNARD and P&O CRUISES

On August 12, 2022 Cunard and P&O Cruises announced updated Covid-19 protocols and guidelines, with adjusted pre-travel testing requirements. From Tuesday September 6, 2022 self-testing prior to travel will change from mandatory to highly recommended for vaccinated guests on the vast majority of holidays. Only guests sailing on longer, more complex itineraries will be required to have an observed or in person antigen or PCR test with a fit to travel certificate prior to departure. These include a number of holidays of 16 nights or more and other specific voyages. These new guidelines apply to all Cunard itineraries sailing from Southampton and all other departure points with the exception of countries where government regulations and protocols may vary including Canada and Australia.

Following the evolving public health situation cruise lines are constantly updating their protocols. For the most recent testing protocols please visit your cruise line’s website.

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