Cruises: Latest Updates and Covid-19 Protocols

Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line are the latest operators to loosen Covid-19 travel requirements.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Encore

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Royal Caribbean has dropped pretravel testing requirements for most U.S. and Europe cruises. Some exceptions still apply depending on the destination. Disney Cruise Line also announced plans to roll back its Covid-19 restrictions. Beginning Nov. 14, guests on all U.S. sailings no longer need to complete a Covid-19 test, regardless of vaccination status.

Norwegian Cruise Line ended all Covid-19 requirements on Oct. 4. Passengers no longer have to provide a negative test, proof of vaccination or wear masks onboard. However, they are still subject to local travel restrictions set by each country visited on a trip's itinerary. Norwegian was the first major cruise line to end testing requirements for unvaccinated passengers. 

Carnival Cruise Line now allows unvaccinated passengers to self-test for Covid-19 on most cruises, as of Sept. 6. They must still be tested by a medical professional on cruises of 16 nights or more, and on sailings with stops in Bermuda, Canada, Greece and Spain. 

Also on Sept. 6, Carnival dropped vaccination requirements along with Princess Cruises and Seabourn. The cruise lines ended precruise testing for vaccinated guests on most sailings, except trips to Canada, Bermuda, Greece and Australia, per local guidelines, and on voyages of 16 nights or longer. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still strongly recommends that passengers take a Covid-19 test within one day of embarkation, and that they are up to date with vaccines. Those with a medical condition should talk to their health-care providers before booking a cruise, even if fully vaccinated. Cruise lines have been advised to operate their ships "with at least 90 percent of passengers and 95 percent of crew who are up to date with their Covid-19 vaccines." They must also submit data on Covid cases to the CDC, which has provided guidelines for when a ship should consider suspending operations. 

The CDC eliminated its Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships on July 18. The program gave a red, orange, yellow or green status to vessels based on data reported by the ships and public-health authorities, such as the number of Covid-19 cases onboard and the public-health measures that were being followed. The color-coding system was designed to help passengers make an informed decision about the Covid-19 risk level of cruising. Ships that did not participate in the program were given a gray status.

Cruise lines began to loosen mask restrictions earlier this year. Masks are optional for indoor spaces on Disney Cruise Line ships, except for the Walt Disney Theatre. Royal Caribbean adopted an optimal face mask policy for fully vaccinated passengers. Carnival Cruise Line similarly changed its safety guidelines, and Norwegian Cruise Line lifted its onboard mask mandate this spring.

Following is a listing of the current news from the major cruise lines. For further details, contact the operators directly.

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line no longer requires face masks on board as of March 1. The cruise line has also updated its Covid-19 testing requirements. Passengers who have had the virus within three months of their sail date do not need to get tested if they are at least 10 days past receiving a positive test result, are asymptomatic and can provide documentation of recovery. The cruise line now allows unvaccinated passengers to go ashore, although several destinations still do not permit the unvaccinated — including San Juan, Grand Cayman, St. Kitts and Tortola.

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises dropped its testing requirement for cruises of five days or less for vaccinated passengers on Aug. 8. 

Disney Cruise Line

Beginning Nov. 14, Disney Cruise Line will drop Covid-19 testing requirements for guests on all sailings from the U.S. Vaccination is not required, but highly recommended. Masks are optional for indoor spaces.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line ended all Covid-19 restrictions on Oct. 4. Passengers no longer have to provide a negative test or proof of vaccination prior to embarkation. Masks are not required onboard. 

All sailings on the Norwegian Getaway through Oct. 9 were also cancelled. 

Royal Caribbean International

Effective Nov. 2, Royal Caribbean has removed pretravel testing rules for most cruises from the U.S. and Europe. Some exceptions apply for cruises traveling to countries that require a negative Covid-19 test result. Guests also do not need to show proof of vaccination, unless mandated by the destination. 

Princess Cruises 

Princess Cruises has cancelled 11 sailings on the Diamond Princess due to staffing shortages. The affected cruises were supposed to depart from San Diego between Sept. 1 and Nov. 13. 

"With rising occupancy levels on the ships that have already returned to service and our commitment to guarantee the Princess experience is exceptional, Princess has made the difficult decision to cancel a limited number of voyages (11 sailings) on the Diamond Princess," the cruise line said in a statement. "This will provide us with the additional time needed to overcome our labor challenges."

The Island Princess resumed sailings from Fort Lauderdale on April 18. The Crown Princess began cruises from Los Angeles on April 30. Royal Princess restarted out of Vancouver on April 26. The restart of Diamond Princess cruises in Japan and Singapore have been postponed until March 2023. Proof of vaccination must be provided at least 14 days before departure for all sailings.

Virgin Voyages

The maiden sailing of the new cruise line's 2,700-passenger Scarlet Lady departed from Miami on Oct. 6.