Most cruise lines open up to unvaccinated, Disney a tiny bit

As more cruise lines begin to see an increase in demand, COVID-19 restrictions are opening up with Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian soon to no longer limit cruises based on vaccination status.

The lines announced this week that nearly all U.S.-based cruises will be bookable to unvaccinated guests ― for NCL beginning Sept. 3 and Carnival and Royal Caribbean beginning Sept. 5. Similar positions have been offered by Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas.

Vaccine requirements remain in place for sailings that travel to Canada or Bermuda.

Those who are vaccinated on Royal Caribbean won’t need to take a pre-cruise test for any sailing shorter than 10 nights. Cruise lines had previously limited that to cruises less than five nights. Carnival’s limit will be upped to 15 nights or less. NCL won’t require pre-cruise testing for vaccinated people on voyages of any length.

For unvaccinated guests, testing is still required, but within three days before boarding no matter the cruise length on all three lines. However, Royal will begin accepting results from self-administered home tests.

Unvaccinated travelers can also begin to sail on most European cruises, but other international departure points such as Australia and Singapore as well as transatlantic voyages have vaccine requirements in place.

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Virgin Voyages removed its pre-cruise testing requirements for vaccinated passengers back in July right after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ended its COVID-19 monitoring program. It also opened up sailings to a limited number of unvaccinated guests.

Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises, though, remain mostly tied to previous vaccine standards.

On MSC Cruises, all guests 12 and older must be fully vaccinated, but the pre-cruise testing requirement comes down starting Aug. 29 for sailings five nights or less. Any unvaccinated children ages 2-11 will still need pre-cruise testing. Similar protocols remain in place for Silversea Cruises and Virgin Voyages

Disney Cruise Line is loosening its vaccine age limit starting Sept. 2 for sailings from U.S. and Canadian ports. It had required those 5 and older to have been vaccinated, but is raising that age requirement to 12 and up.

All guests must still submit proof of negative COVID-19 tests taken two days or less before sailing, or have to take a test before boarding at the cruise terminal. On-site tests costs are the passengers’ responsibility. Unvaccinated guests must do a test within three days, and also at the terminal, although the cruise line pays for the unvaccinated guests’ on-site test.

The cruise industry was shut down for nearly a year and a half after the pandemic exploded in March 2020, with several outbreaks centered on cruise ships. The industry worked with the CDC to develop dozens of safety measures in an effort to get cruise lines back up and running, and out from under a no-sail order from the CDC.

The first ships began sailing from the U.S. in summer 2021, taking through spring 2022 before the cruise lines returned most of their fleets to service.