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 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. Starting July 25, the boutique cruise line recommends all 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.

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.

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.

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.”

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 5 August 2022: Carnival Cruise Line recently added new meaures for sailings visiting Bermuda and Canada. ALL guests on itineraries that include Bermuda must complete a pre-cruise test, irrespective of the length of the cruise. Guests may take either a PCR test within 72 hours prior to sailing or an antigen test no earlier than two days prior to sailing.

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.

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.

Also read: Explora Journeys reveals destination experiences in the Mediterranean

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