Cruises: Latest Updates and Covid-19 Protocols

Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean have cancelled sailings, while Norwegian Cruise Line had to suspend a trip mid-voyage.

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Norwegian Cruise Line's Encore

Updated Jan. 18, 2022.

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While dealing with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Celebrity Cruises has postponed the restart of Celebrity Escape to the end of April, effectively cancelling four sailings between late March and mid-April. Royal Caribbean also cancelled a cruise aboard the Independence of the Seas, which was scheduled to depart Jan. 22. Norwegian Cruise Line suspended the 10-day Caribbean sailing of the Norwegian Gem mid-voyage. The ship, which departed New York on Jan. 9, made only a single port call in St. Maarten.

The Conditional Sail Order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expired as planned on Jan. 15, despite the recent increase in Covid-19 cases on ships. CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky anticipates that most cruise lines will continue to follow the order voluntarily.

"The fact that the industry has stepped up and is now interested in doing and exceeding the compliance with the [CSO] without the order even necessarily needing to be in place is a real testimony to how well that has worked and how we work collaboratively with the industry," Walensky said during a Senate hearing on Jan. 11.

Royal Caribbean has cancelled the sailings of four ships that depart from Florida. The Miami-based Symphony of the Seas now will resume service on Jan. 29. All cruises on the Jewel of the Seas, which also sails from Miami, are cancelled through Feb. 19. The restart of the Vision of the Seas out of Port Everglades has been postponed to March 7. Sailings of the Tampa-based Serenade of the Seas won't resume until April 26.

Norwegian Cruise Line has cancelled multiple sailings and suspended another. NCL cancelled the Norwegian Getaway's nine-day cruise to the Caribbean, scheduled to depart on Jan. 5, due to "Covid-related circumstances." The Norwegian Pearl's 11-day cruise Panama Canal trip was turned around two days after it left PortMiami due to several crew members aboard the ship testing positive. Both ships require passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated. The cruise line also cancelled all trips on Norwegian Pearl through Jan. 14, on Norwegian Sky through Feb. 25, on Pride of America through Feb. 26, on Norwegian Jade through March 3, on Norwegian Star through March 19, on Norwegian Sun through April 19 and on Norwegian Spirit through April 23. 

On Dec. 30, the CDC warned people against going on cruises, regardless of vaccination status, due to outbreaks of the Omicron variant on ships. More than 90 ships are currently under investigation or observation by the CDC because of Covid-19 cases. The agency also recommended that passengers get tested and quarantine for five days after docking even if they are vaccinated and don't have symptoms. "The virus that causes Covid-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting Covid-19 on cruise ships is very high," the CDC said. 

In response, the Cruise Lines International Association said the cruise industry felt singled out by the new recommendations, noting that cruise operators follow stricter health protocols than many other travel sectors — such as requiring all passengers and crew members to show proof of vaccination and/or a negative Covid-19 test. CLIA said that the decision is "particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard — far fewer than on land — and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore." U.S. cruise lines have not announced any plans to cancel trips.

Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have tightened their face mask policies on board in response to the Omicron variant. Passengers must now wear masks in all indoor areas unless eating or drinking through the end of January.

Effective Jan. 13, all Disney Cruise Line passengers 5 and older must be fully vaccinated. Guests younger than 5 must provide a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their sail date; rapid tests will not be accepted. Currently, passengers 12 and older must be vaccinated.

"However, considering the continued spread of the Delta variant, emergence of other Covid-19 variants of concern, breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated, and possible additional surges of cases and deaths, CDC has determined a temporary extension of the CSO is necessary for foreign-flagged cruise ships operating on international itineraries," the announcement stated.

The extended order includes several changes from the original. Among them are new procedures for ships that come into U.S. waters after operating in other jurisdictions, and new instructions for ships that want to switch from the current requirement that 95 percent of passengers be vaccinated to a lower number.

As they resumed sailing from some ports this summer, major cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean International, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Corp., indicated they would follow the CDC's rules and recommendations regarding vaccinations that were outlined by the CDC in the CSO. 

Carnival Cruise Line has rescheduled the restart of several ships. The Legend restarted Nov. 14 in Baltimore. The Radiance's maiden voyage launched Dec. 13 from Long Beach, Calif., and the Conquest's restart was postponed to Dec. 13 out of Miami. The sailings of Carnival's Liberty, Sunshine, Paradise, Ecstasy and Sensation have been delayed until 2022.

Disney Cruise Line's Wonder relaunched on Oct. 1, sailing from San Diego to Mexico. It's the fourth Disney ship to return to service since the pandemic began. Passengers 12 and older must be fully vaccinated; those 11 and younger must provide a negative Covid-19 test.

Three Carnival Corp. brands have further delayed their relaunch on several ships: Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn. Holland America has cancelled winter sailings on the Volendam and Zandaam, pushing their restart date until May 2022. Princess Cruises' Island Princess and Diamond Princess will resume Caribbean and Japan sailings in the spring. Seabourn will launch Sojourn on June 6, 2022, in the Mediterranean after cancelling its 145-day World Cruise that was scheduled to depart from Los Angeles on Jan. 11.

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

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival restarted some cruises in Alaska, Miami and Galveston in July. The Carnival Valor began sailing out of New Orleans on Nov. 1. The Legend restarted Nov. 14 in Baltimore. The Radiance's maiden voyage was Dec. 13 from Long Beach, Calif, and the Conquest's restart was postponed to Dec. 13 out of Miami. The Liberty, Sunshine, Paradise, Ecstasy and Sensation have all been delayed until 2022. 

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises has postponed the restart of the Celebrity Escape to the end of April, effectively cancelling four sailings between late March and mid-April. The cruise line resumed some U.S. sailings on June 26.

Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line resumed service Aug. 9 with the DisneyDream sailing from Port Canaveral. Passengers over the age of 2 must wear masks indoors except while in cabins and while eating or drinking. The DisneyFantasy and the DisneyMagic have resumed sailing out of Port Canaveral and Miami, respectively. DisneyWonder relaunched on Oct. 1 from San Diego and on Nov. 19 from Galveston. It will resume sailing from New Orleans Feb. 2.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line suspended the Norwegian Gem's recent cruise mid-voyage. The 10-day Caribbean sailing, which departed New York on Jan. 9, ended after making a single port call in St. Maarten. The cruise line cancelled all sailings on Norwegian Pearl through Jan. 14, on Norwegian Sky through Feb. 25, on Pride of America through Feb. 26, on Norwegian Jade through March 3, on Norwegian Star through March 19, on Norwegian Sun through April 19 and on Norwegian Spirit through April 23. 

Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean cancelled a cruise aboard the Independence of the Seas, which was scheduled to depart Jan. 22. Sailings on the Miami-based Symphony of the Seas have been cancelled until Jan. 29. All cruises on the Jewel of the Seas, which also sails from Miami, are cancelled through Feb. 19. The restart of the Vision of the Seas out of Port Everglades has been postponed from Jan. 8 to March 7. The Tampa-based Serenade of the Seas cancelled sailings through March 4, but won't resume service until April 26 after undergoing a drydock. Royal Caribbean resumed Alaska cruises in July 2021; the rest of the line's fleet began gradually restarting its U.S. sailings starting with the Freedom of the Seas, which departed from Miami July 2, 2021. 

Princess Cruises 

Princess Cruises resumed Alaska sailings July 25. The Grand Princess and Majestic Princess have resumed sailing from Los Angeles, and Caribbean Princess has restarted service out of Port Everglades in Florida. The Crown Princess will begin cruises from Los Angeles on Feb. 13. Royal Princess will restart out of Vancouver on April 8. The Island Princess and the Diamond Princess will resume trips in the Caribbean and in Japan in the spring. Proof of vaccination must be provided at least 14 days before departure for all sailings through February 2022.

Virgin Voyages

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