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Guide to pre-cruise Covid test

In:
18 Feb 2022
By: 
Jenna DeLaurentis

Understanding Covid test requirements needed for a Royal Caribbean cruise can be a bit confusing. In reality, though, taking a Covid test before your cruise just requires a little planning upfront.

Here are the latest testing policies and requirements as of February 2022.

Sailing from the United States homeports

Guests sailing from the United States homeports (excluding Puerto Rico) should adhere to the following guidelines:

For vaccinated guests

Vaccinated guests must show a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than two days before embarkation. This includes children aged 5-11 who have been fully vaccinated. Proof of vaccination must be presented in addition to the Covid test results.

The Covid test can be either a PCR or rapid antigen test. Here is a guide to when you can take your Covid test:

  • If your cruise leaves on Sunday, you can take your Covid test Friday, Saturday, or Sunday
  • If your cruise leaves on Monday, you can take your Covid test Saturday, Sunday, or Monday
  • If your cruise leaves on Tuesday, you can take your Covid test Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Wednesday, you can take your Covid test Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Thursday, you can take your Covid test Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday
  • If your cruise leaves on Friday, you can take your Covid test Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday
  • If your cruise leaves on Saturday, you can take your Covid test Thursday, Friday, or Saturday

The amount of hours that have passed since your test do not matter. If you take your test at 8AM on a Thursday and your cruise doesn’t leave until 5PM on Saturday, the test will still be accepted. Royal Caribbean counts tests by days, not hours, so there is no need to worry if it has been ~50 hours instead of 48 hours since your test by the time you board the ship.

For unvaccinated guests

Unvaccinated guests aged 2 to 11 must show a negative Covid test from a PCR test. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted. PCR tests must be taken no more than three days prior to embarkation. Guests under 2 years of age do not need a Covid test.

Important note: PCR tests for unvaccinated children cannot be taken on the same day as embarkation.

  • If your cruise leaves on Sunday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Thursday Friday, or Saturday
  • If your cruise leaves on Monday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Friday, Saturday, or Sunday
  • If your cruise leaves on Tuesday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Saturday, Sunday, or Monday
  • If your cruise leaves on Wednesday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Thursday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Friday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday
  • If your cruise leaves on Saturday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday

Additional testing for unvaccinated children

In addition to the required pre-cruise PCR test, additional tests are required for unvaccinated children.

All unvaccinated children must take a complimentary rapid antigen test upon arrival at the cruise terminal on embarkation day. More details for the Covid test at the terminal will be sent via email prior to the cruise.

For cruises that are five nights or longer, unvaccinated children will require an additional complimentary antigen test before the end of the cruise. Details on how to register for this test will be provided once onboard the ship.

Where can I get my Covid test?

The easiest and most convenient option for vaccinated travelers is to order the Abbott BinaxNow Ag Card Home Test. This is a telehealth option in which a proctor watches and guides you through the Covid test. Tests come in packs of 2-6, and it is recommended to order more than you need in case of any discrepancies within the tests (missing items, invalid result, etc.).

Unvaccinated children cannot do the approved at-home test because it is a rapid antigen test. A PCR test is required for unvaccinated children.

Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens also offer rapid and PCR Covid tests. Search for appointments near you prior to the cruise to ensure you can get one booked. These tests are free. The ease of finding a Covid appointment at a pharmacy can change with demand and your location, so check early to see if this option will work for you.

In addition to the at-home test and pharmacies, Covid tests can be found at urgent care locations, pop-up testing sites, health clinics, and more. Research what is offered in your local area far in advance to ensure you do not run into any surprises when trying to schedule a Covid test.

Our recommendation for vaccinated travelers is to take a rapid antigen test as opposed to a PCR test. Results come back much quicker, so there is no need to worry about not receiving the results in time.

Covid test results should include the following:

  • Your name
  • Date the test was taken
  • Type of Covid test
  • Negative result
  • Lab’s CLIA or Certification number
  • Address of the lab

Important note #1: The Abbott BinaxNow Ag Card Home Test is the only at-home test accepted by Royal Caribbean. Do not use the regular Abbot BinaxNow test sold over the counter, as it does not have a proctor watching you take the test.

Important note #2: Recently the Biden-Harris administration approved up to four free at-home Covid tests per household. These tests are not accepted by Royal Caribbean as there is no proctor watching you do the test.

How do I present my test results?

Test results can be shown either on a phone or printed paper at the cruise terminal.

Are tests available at the cruise terminal?

All unvaccinated children must complete a complimentary Covid-19 test at the cruise terminal. This is in addition to the required PCR test they must complete no more than 3 days prior to the cruise.

For vaccinated passengers who were unable to meet the testing requirements prior to arrival, tests may be available at the cruise terminal. These tests are extremely limited, however, and start at $99 per person. Tests at the terminal can be scheduled here.

Because of limited availability, this is not a reliable testing option and guests should complete their test prior to arrival at the terminal.

Testing required for international guests to enter the United States

If you are traveling by air from another country to the cruise port, such as Canada or Mexico, a negative Covid test or proof of recovery must be provided.

If traveling by air to the US, a negative COVID-19 test must be taken no more than 1 calendar day before travel to the United States. This is counted by calendar day and not hours. Therefore, if your flight leaves at noon on Saturday, a Covid test could be taken at any time on Friday or Saturday morning.

Both antigen tests and NAAT tests are accepted. A rapid antigen test is recommended due to quicker turnaround times prior to the flight. A full list of accepted test types can be found on the CDC’s website.

If you have recovered from Covid-19 in the past 90 days, documentation of recovery can be provided in lieu of a test result. These documents must include a positive Covid test result taken no more than 90 calendar days before the flight and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider stating that the passenger has been cleared for travel.

Important note: There is no testing requirement for travelers entering the United States by land or sea, and these requirements only apply to air travel.

Additional testing requirements by port

Puerto Rico

For guests with cruises booked from San Juan, Puerto Rico, the following is required:

  • Fully vaccinated travelers arriving on domestic flights do not need to show a negative Covid test prior to entry in Puerto Rico.
  • Unvaccinated travelers arriving on domestic flights must show a negative Covid-19 test (antigen or PCR) taken within 48 hours of arrival.
  • All travelers arriving to Puerto Rico on international flights must follow the CDC entry requirements to the United States as described above.
  • Travelers who tested positive for Covid-19 within 90 days prior to entry can instead submit a positive test document and health certificate from a doctor stating proof of recovery. This is for entering Puerto Rico by air, not boarding the cruise ship.

The same negative Covid-19 test results used to enter Puerto Rico can be used to embark the ship, provided the timing is correct.

Barbados

For guests with cruises booked from Bridgetown, Barbados, the following is required:

  • All travelers aged 5 and older must present with a PCR test taken within 3 days prior to entry by air OR a Rapid PCR test taken within 1 day prior to entry by air. Home tests and rapid antigen tests are not accepted. For more details on accepted tests, look here.
  • Covid-19 test results must be uploaded online to Barbados’ online Immigration form.

Important note: All guests 2 and older must take a Covid-19 antigen test at the terminal in Barbados prior to embarking the ship. Details will be sent to guests prior to the cruise and tests are complementary.

Canada

Canada has recently relaxed its Covid-19 entry requirements. For guests with cruises booked from Canada, the following is required starting February 28th:

  • Travelers can use a Covid-19 rapid antigen test taken the day prior to arrival or a molecular (PCR) test taken no more than 72 hours prior to scheduled flight or land border entry to meet pre-entry requirements.

Europe

Guidelines and testing requirements for Europe cruises in 2022 have not yet been released.