Cruises: Latest Updates and Covid-19 Protocols

Carnival Cruise Line now allows unvaccinated passengers to go ashore.

Norwegian Cruise Line's Encore

Updated June 23, 2022

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Carnival Cruise Line updated its protocols for unvaccinated passengers, allowing them to now go ashore. However, several destinations still do not permit unvaccinated travelers, including San Juan, Grand Cayman, St. Kitts and Tortola.  

Norwegian Cruise Line has cancelled the Aug. 17 inaugural voyage for the Norwegian Prima due to supply-chain issues. The maiden sailing has been rescheduled for Sept. 3.

The 3,215-passenger Prima is the first in a new class of NCL ships and will feature a three-level go kart, a drop slide, a sculpture garden and expanded outdoor spaces. 

While supply slowdowns are a continuing concern for cruise lines, there is positive news on other fronts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently removed its travel advisory for cruising. Put in place at the beginning of the pandemic, the warning provided information on the risk levels of cruising based on Covid-19 cases in the United States. 

A spokesperson for the CDC told USA Today that removing the travel notice does not mean the agency considers there to be no Covid-19 risk associated with cruising. Instead, "travelers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings," said Dave Daigle, associate director of communications for the CDC's Center for Global Health.

In fact, the agency still recommends that passengers be vaccinated and take a viral Covid-19 test no more than three days prior to departure. Travelers are also advised to wear well-fitted face masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.

Cruise lines quickly applauded the move. 

"We’re absolutely thrilled to see that the CDC recognizes that it’s time to remove the Travel Health Notice,” said Tom McAlpin, CEO of Virgin Voyages, in a statement. "We recognize this move as a demonstration of all of the hard work this industry has done to ensure that we’re offering the safest way to travel. It’s refreshing to see them meet us where we’re at, and clearly where our consumers are at considering the major uptick in demand we’ve seen." 

The CDC also recommends that vessels operating in U.S. waters voluntarily participate in the agency's Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships. The program gives 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 are being followed. The color-coding system will allow passengers to make an informed decision before choosing to travel. Ships that are not participating in the program are given a gray status.

Norwegian Cruise Line cancelled all Norwegian Getaway sailings from June 14 through Oct. 9 in Northern Europe in reaction to the crisis in Ukraine. The cruise line had already removed stops in St. Petersburg, Russia, through the end of 2022. 

Cruise lines gradually loosened restrictions earlier this year. Effective March 11, masks are optional for indoor spaces on Disney Cruise Line ships, except for the Walt Disney Theatre. As of Feb. 25, Royal Caribbean adopted an optimal face mask policy for fully vaccinated passengers. On March 1, Carnival Cruise Line similarly changed its safety guidelines; Norwegian Cruise Line also lifted its onboard mask mandate on March 1, and passengers no longer have to take a Covid-19 test prior to sailing.

While dealing with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Celebrity Cruises postponed the restart of Celebrity Eclipse to the end of April, effectively cancelling four sailings between late March and mid-April. Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas began sailing out of Port Everglades in Florida again on March 7. Sailings of the Tampa-based Serenade of the Seas resumed on April 26.

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

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival 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 has postponed the restart of the Celebrity Eclipse 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, 2021.

Disney Cruise Line

Masks are optional for most indoor spaces. Passengers over the age of 2 must still wear a face covering while in the Walt Disney Theatre. Disney Cruise Line resumed service Aug. 9 with the DisneyDream sailing from Port Canaveral. The DisneyFantasy and the DisneyMagic have resumed sailing out of Port Canaveral and Miami, respectively. DisneyWonder relaunched on Oct. 1 from San Diego, on Nov. 19 from Galveston and on Feb. 2 from New Orleans.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line cancelled the inaugural voyage for the Norwegian Prima due to supply-chain issues. The ship had been scheduled to depart from Amsterdam on Aug. 17. The new maiden voyage is set for Sept. 3. All sailings on the Norwegian Getaway from June 14 through Oct. 9 are also cancelled. 

Norwegian Cruise Line lifted its onboard mask mandate on March 1. Crew members still have to wear masks. Passengers also no longer have to take a Covid-19 test at the pier prior to sailing. Instead, they must provide a negative rapid or PCR test within two days of boarding. The cruise line now allows unvaccinated children ages 4 and under on the ships.

Royal Caribbean International

As of Feb. 25, Royal Caribbean no longer requires that fully vaccinated passengers wear face masks on board.

The Vision of the Seas resumed service out of Port Everglades on March 7. The Tampa-based Serenade of the Seas cancelled sailings through March 4, but didn't resume service until April 26, after being drydocked for upgrades. 

Princess Cruises 

Princess Cruises resumed Alaska sailings July 25, 2021. 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 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.