cdc cruise ships

After a long battle, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has finally dropped its controversial Travel Health Notice on cruise ships. The move, which was praised by the industry’s largest trade group, is now good news for passengers.

In addition, CDC has also released maritime guidance for the cruise industry that covers both passenger and non-passenger carrying vessels. This includes preventing and managing illnesses to help ensure a safe and healthy environment for passengers and crew onboard.

What Is Covid-19?

COVID-19 is a viral illness caused by a virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. It can cause mild symptoms in some people, but more severe disease and hospitalization in others.

Vaccines are the best way to protect against this type of disease. They work by making your body create antibodies against the COVID-19 virus.

The CDC recommends that all travelers who are 5 years or older get an updated (bivalent) COVID-19 vaccine. It is also important for everyone to stay up to date with the vaccination schedule, including getting a booster at least two months after your most recent one.

Keep in mind that you can spread the COVID-19 virus to others before you have any symptoms or feel sick. That is why it’s important to wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has 60% alcohol.

Vaccination Requirements

Cruise lines’ vaccination requirements vary, depending on the itinerary. Ocean and river cruisers, for example, may need to be fully vaccinated with the booster shot or receive proof of previous vaccination before boarding.

Passengers on voyages that call on Australia, Canada and Greece must be fully vaccinated and provide proof of booster shots or show a certificate of immunity that is no more than 270 days old before sailing. Boosters are not required for passengers under 12 years of age, but they are encouraged.

Until September 6, 2022, Disney Cruise Line requires all passengers 12 and older to show proof of full inoculation as a condition of sailing. Through that date, unvaccinated guests must provide negative results from a PCR or proctored antigen test taken no more than 48 hours before embarkation; vaccinated guests must provide negative results from their vaccination test taken no more than 72 hours prior to boarding and take a second test at the pier before boarding.

Pre-Embarkation Testing

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to end its COVID-19 program, a number of cruise lines have started dropping pre-embarkation testing requirements. Virgin Voyages has already removed its pre-embarkation testing requirement, and Royal Caribbean announced this week that it will drop tests for unvaccinated passengers on cruises of five days or less beginning in early August.

Meanwhile, Holland America has removed pre-embarkation testing for a number of sailings, including those onboard its Rotterdam ship. Guests on those sailings will need to present proof of a negative, medically observed viral COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) within one day of their sail date.

Regardless of whether testing is required, all travelers should still take a COVID-19 test when they arrive at their destination. This is especially important for cruise passengers who are leaving a country that requires testing for entry. If you are unsure whether you will need to get a test before you disembark, it is best to check with your travel agent or the government website for the country of debarkation.

Post-Embarkation Testing

Now that cruise travel is back to normal more than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic, many cruise lines are walking back their pre-cruise testing requirements. MSC Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean are among those that have eliminated testing for vaccinated travelers on sailings five nights or less out of U.S. ports, according to a news release shared with Travel + Leisure.

However, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line still require pre-cruise tests for travelers from European homeports where local regulations still require them. This includes the Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada and Greece, for example.

The cruise lines’ policies on post-cruise testing will vary, depending on the destination and whether guests will have to disembark at a foreign port or arrive directly in the United States. If travelers do disembark in a country that requires pre-debarkation testing, they will need to present a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to board the ship.