When cruising restarted in spring 2021, after a nearly 15-month pandemic-spurred shutdown imposed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cruisers faced a barrage of rules, including strict requirements for COVID-19 vaccinations and precruise COVID-19 testing. Later, the rules started to go by the wayside, and it was hard to keep track of who was requiring what. Not anymore.
Most cruise lines have now dropped or are soon dropping rules for both vaccinations and precruise testing, with at least one notable exception. Viking—on its river, ocean, and expedition ships—still requires everyone on board be fully vaccinated.
Another line that was still requiring COVID vaccinations, small-ship line Windstar Cruises, will be scrapping its vaccine mandate as of June 1, 2023. “We’ve invested in and improved our health and safety processes, including upgrading the HVAC systems on all of our ships, which has led to a cleaner and safer environment on board,” says Windstar president Christopher Prelog. “When combined with the widespread availability of vaccines and medical treatments, the risk factors are considerably lower now, giving us the confidence to lift the requirement.”
Are COVID vaccinations and testing still required for cruises?
Most cruise lines have dropped both their vaccine and testing requirements. Those that have lingered into 2023—mostly lines operating smaller ships—have been quietly scaling back their requirements.
The result: While there was a time after cruising restarted that you could be assured that your fellow passengers, at least those age 12 and up, were both fully vaccinated and tested for COVID-19 before getting on the ship, that is not the case anymore.
That said, specific countries have their own requirements, and several countries still require that cruise ship passengers are vaccinated and/or tested before arrival. If you are doing an itinerary outside of the Caribbean or Europe (where most vaccine and testing requirements have been dropped)—including to select countries in Central and South America or to Australia—you still have to read your cruise line’s precruise health and safety information carefully to make sure you comply with the latest requirements.
Contact your cruise line or check the U.S. State Department’s travel advisories for the latest.
What to know before you cruise
Vaccine and pretrip testing requirements can be confusing, especially if you are cruising internationally. Cruise lines have their own rules; countries have their own rules.
Before your trip, you will need to review your cruise line’s health and safety protocols. If a precruise test is required by a certain country, you will find that noted. In this case, you may be required to arrive at your ship with a negative COVID-19 test result in hand or not. (If testing is required, it can typically be either a PCR test or tele-health-monitored antigen test, paid for by the passenger. The cruise line may also require a test at the pier, paid for by the cruise line.)
If being fully vaccinated is required, that means having received the original series of vaccines at least 14 days prior to your cruise, or the original series plus a booster shot or shots.
As was the case even before the pandemic, you will be asked at embarkation to fill out a questionnaire inquiring about your current health status and whether you currently have any symptoms of illness.
You are free to pack and wear masks on your cruise. Most cruise lines suggest you do wear masks in crowded indoor situations—but it’s not enforced.
A quick cruise line guide to COVID requirements
Here’s a rundown of the basic rules for some leading cruise lines. Note: There may be additional requirements if you are traveling internationally. Be sure to review the latest requirements prior to boarding.
American Queen Voyages
On American Queen Voyages’ river, ocean, Great Lakes, and expedition ships, there are no longer any precruise testing or vaccinations required. Face coverings are optional, though masks may be required of any passengers showing symptoms.
Precruise testing is no longer required for vaccinated guests sailing with Azamara, except in ports where testing is required. No vaccination is necessary for cruises departing from or returning to the United States or Europe. In Australia, all guests 12 years and older must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before sailing with all required COVID-19 vaccine doses (including a booster shot). Children under 12 years old are not required to be vaccinated.
No vaccination or testing is required on the majority of Celebrity Cruises sailings. Destinations with stricter requirements include: the Galápagos, Australia and New Zealand, transatlantic crossings, and select Central and South America itineraries. Unvaccinated guests need to be tested in Brazil, Chile, and Colombia.
As of April 23, 2023, on the Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, and as of June 8, 2023, on the Queen Elizabeth, vaccinations and testing will no longer be required by Cunard (until then, testing and vaccination requirements apply).
Disney Cruise Line
For sailings embarking from the United States, which are the bulk of Disney Cruise Line’s sailings, no vaccination or testing is required. Disney recommends all guests be vaccinated before sailing and take a test for COVID-19 two days prior to their cruise. There are additional requirements on repositioning cruises and in Australia, so it is important to check the line’s website before your cruise.
Holland America Line
There are no precruise testing or vaccination requirements on most Holland America Line itineraries. There are requirements on select voyages (you can look up a specific voyage’s requirements on the line’s website).
For voyages embarking on or after May 11, 2023, Lindblad Expeditions will no longer require guests to be fully vaccinated, although the line recommends guests be fully vaccinated (for cruises prior to that time, all passengers age five and up must be vaccinated). Lindblad recommends, but does not require, passengers take a predeparture COVID-19 test within five days of the start of their expedition.
Vaccine requirements are purely dependent on the destinations being visited on each Oceania cruise. Passengers are advised to be up to date on the latest regulations for all destinations on their cruise itinerary.
Paul Gauguin Cruises
Effective April 2023, Paul Gauguin Cruises no longer requires that passengers are vaccinated or tested for COVID prior to embarkation, but it continues to encourage vaccination. “Paul Gauguin Cruises’ officers, staff and crew will remain fully vaccinated,” the line states. Travelers will need to present a health declaration form at embarkation.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Vaccines and precruise testing are generally not required to sail with Regent Seven Seas Cruises. There are some requirements in place based on local health regulations in a specific country a ship is visiting. Regent notifies guests approximately 30 days prior to sailing of any country-specific protocols.
No vaccine or precruise testing is required on the majority of Royal Caribbean itineraries, with a few exceptions: Cruises from Australia, transpacific and transatlantic sailings, and cruises from Hawai‘i to Vancouver.
No vaccine or testing required except on certain Seabourn itineraries where a country may have specific requirements.
No vaccination is required for Silversea passengers except as designated by the destination. Precruise testing is not required except when specified by a destination.
All passengers and crew are required to be vaccinated on Viking’s river, ocean, and expedition ships—without exception. Viking strongly recommends passengers receive a booster dose before departing. Viking recommends but does not require a predeparture COVID-19 test (except if required by a destination).
Virgin Voyages has no precruise testing or vaccination requirements. Masks may be required at select times.
Beginning June 1, 2023, Windstar will no longer require guests to be vaccinated. Crew will continue to be vaccinated. Masks are optional, with the line highly recommending guests wear masks in indoor public spaces. All guests fill out a health questionnaire on embarkation. A precruise COVID-19 test is not required unless you show symptoms.
This article was originally published in May 2022; it was most recently updated on April 19, 2023, with current information.