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Are COVID Vaccinations and Testing Still Required for Cruises?

By Fran Golden

Jun 13, 2022

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Lindblad Expeditions is one of the few cruise lines still asking passengers to mask up onboard.

Courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions

Lindblad Expeditions is one of the few cruise lines still asking passengers to mask up onboard.

It’s hard to keep track as regulations continue to change and evolve. This is the latest for those heading out to sea soon or considering it.

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Two years after the start of the pandemic, cruise lines are back in business and more ships are returning to sea. On all of them, you need to be vaccinated in order to cruise and precruise testing is now a fact of life.

COVID tests are no longer required for international flights to the U.S. but cruises will continue to mandate them, as well as vaccines, for the foreseeable future.  Royal Caribbean, for instance, recently extended its vaccine and testing rules through September on cruises in North America. If adults want to cruise this summer, they will need to be fully vaccinated, meaning they have had all inoculations at least 14 days prior to their sailing date. (While the CDC considers people to be up to date on their vaccines if they have received a booster shot for those who are eligible, most lines are still accepting the original one or two shots to be considered vaccinated and are simply recommending boosters.) There are some exceptions for kids under the age of 12.

If you are planning to cruise in Europe and some other parts of the world, you may also be required by your cruise line to have received a booster shot, based on the government COVID-19 travel policies of the countries you are sailing to.

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In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this spring dropped its warning to travelers about health risks on cruise ships. After two years of first banning and then advising against cruising and warning of its health and safety risks due to the pandemic, the agency took cruises off its warning list in late March.

In May, the CDC also scaled back slightly its tough restrictions for cruise lines by allowing ships to declare themselves as “highly vaccinated” if 90 percent of passengers and at least 95 percent of crew are vaccinated. Previously, the number was 95 percent for passengers. The change will allow more unvaccinated children who don’t yet qualify for a vaccine (currently those under the age of five) or have not obtained a vaccine to come onboard this summer.

The agency has also provided the cruise lines with greater leeway to set and monitor their own policies. Consequently, most cruise lines have opted to make masks optional for vaccinated guests (though some lines such as Lindblad are requiring masks onboard).

But the CDC still maintains a close watch, publishing a color-coded chart of ship outbreaks that is updated every few days. And cruise ships have not been immune to COVID outbreaks even recently. Any time there’s a surge on land there’s a surge on ships, too, and that is the case currently. As of May 25, 2022, of the 93 U.S.-based cruise ships currently sailing (three with crew only), the CDC was investigating outbreaks on 86 of them and monitoring four others. It’s worth noting that the threshold for investigation is very low—only 0.3 percent or more of total passengers and crew testing positive.

What to know before you cruise

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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. And the rules are constantly changing.

Before your trip, you will need to review your cruise line’s health and safety protocols. In most cases, you will be expected to arrive at your ship with a negative COVID test result—either a PCR test or tele-health-monitored antigen test, paid for by you. The cruise line may also require a test at the pier, paid for by the cruise line.

Unvaccinated children have more stringent requirements that may include a series of tests both precruise and on the ship.

A quick cruise line-by-line guide to COVID requirements

Here’s a rundown of the basic rules for some leading cruise lines. Booster shots are only required by those lines specified below and are simply recommended by the others. Note: There may be additional requirements if you are traveling internationally, and the rules can change—sometimes overnight. Be sure to review the latest requirements prior to boarding.

  • American Queen Voyages: On this line’s river, ocean, and expedition ships, all passengers are required to be vaccinated. A required antigen test is also conducted before embarkation by the cruise line. Guests have the option of providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken by an accredited third party within two days of embarkation.
  • Azamara: All passengers age 12 and up must be vaccinated. Those eligible for boosters are also required to have received them. All guests are required to present a negative COVID-19 test at embarkation.
  • Celebrity Cruises: All passengers 12 years of age and up must be vaccinated. All passengers age 2 and up must present a negative COVID-19 test result to board a ship.
  • Cunard: All guests age 16 and up must be vaccinated, including with booster shots. Children age 12 to 15 must have received two initial doses of the vaccination. All passengers age 4 and up must take a prearrival test and show a negative result to board.
  • Disney Cruise Line: All vaccine-eligible passengers age 5 and up must be vaccinated. As of June 7, proof of a negative COVID-19 test result is required for all guests. There’s an option, if you don’t get tested at home, of purchasing tests at the pier (from $74 plus tax per person).
  • Holland America Line: All passengers age 12 and up must be vaccinated on North America sailings. Children under 5 years of age do not need to be vaccinated. Children age 5–11 need to go through an exemption and special testing process if they are unvaccinated. On Europe sailings, the definition of “fully vaccinated” requires a final dose no more than 270 days (nine months) since the last dose. Otherwise, a booster is required. All passengers age 2 and older in North American sailings (5 and older on Europe sailings) must take a precruise, medically observed COVID test.
  • Lindblad Expeditions: All passengers age 5 and older must be vaccinated. All passengers age 12 and up, who completed their primary vaccine series more than five months ago, are required to be boosted. Passengers age 4 and under do not require a vaccination. All passengers are required to take a precruise PCR. At the pier, Lindblad also requires a COVID-19 test, at no expense to the passenger. As of May, Lindblad is requiring face coverings onboard.
  • Oceania Cruises: All passengers must be vaccinated, and boosters are required if their second test was more than 270 days prior to boarding. All guests are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test.
  • Paul Gauguin Cruises: Vaccinations are required. Boosters are required for those age 18 and up who completed tests more than nine months prior to the cruise. All passengers must also present a negative PCR or supervised antigen test result.
  • Ponant: Passengers over age 5 must be vaccinated. All passengers must be precruise tested before arriving at the pier, where an additional test will be conducted.
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises: All passengers must be vaccinated. Passengers are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. If for some reason that’s not possible, a pier-side test will be available for a fee.
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises: All passengers 12 and over must be vaccinated. Boosters are required on cruises in Europe. Precruise testing is required of all passengers. Unvaccinated kids age 2–11 will also be tested at the terminal. (Additional testing, paid for by Royal, is required for Bermuda cruises.) Masks are recommended for unvaccinated children.
  • Seabourn: All passengers age 12 and over must be vaccinated. Children between 5 and 11 may sail if unvaccinated, but they will need to go through an exemption process and may be subject to additional testing, fees, and protocols. Children under age 5 do not need to be vaccinated. All passengers ages 2 and older will be required to take a pretrip test.
  • Silversea: All passengers must be vaccinated, including a booster dose if they received their second dose of the vaccine more than 90 days to 270 days (depending on the countries being visited) before embarkation date. All passengers are required to present a negative PCR test result.
  • Viking Cruises: All passengers and crew are required to be vaccinated on Viking’s river and ocean ships—without exception. Viking strongly recommends passengers receive a booster dose before departing. As of June 10, “Viking highly recommends, but no longer requires, a pre-departure COVID-19 test—unless one is required by the destination,” Viking said in an updated statement about health and safety protocols. Viking will continue to do onboard testings for any passengers who report symptoms.
  • Windstar Cruises: All passengers must be vaccinated. For Europe and Tahiti, your last COVID-19 shot is now required within the last 270 days. Otherwise, you will need a booster. Windstar will also administer for each passenger a complimentary COVID-19 test prior to sailing.

International travel requirements and restrictions continue to evolve. Check the U.S. State Department’s detailed COVID-19 travel information and country-specific advisories, which are updated regularly. 

The CDC also has detailed recommendations for travel during the pandemic, both for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers as well as for cruise travel. 

This article was originally published in May 2022; it was most recently updated on June 13, 2022 with current information.

>> Next: After COVID Restrictions, Cruises Are Back and Looking Toward the Future

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