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Guide to pre-cruise Covid test

In:
11 Aug 2022

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.

Certain countries and regions have relaxed Covid-19 requirements whereas others maintain more strict requirements. Because of this, each port may have its own testing requirements, so it's important to ensure you're following the requirements of your cruise departure port.

In this guide:

Cruises departing from United States homeports with no port stops in Bermuda or Canada:

Guests sailing from the United States homeports (excluding itineraries visiting Canada or Bermuda) should adhere to the following guidelines:

Cruises 5 nights or less:

  • Unvaccinated guests aged 2-11 must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 3 days of the sail date. A second test is no longer required at the terminal.
  • Fully vaccinated guests, regardless of age, no longer need to test for sailing lengths of 5 nights or less. 

Cruises 6 nights or more:

  • All guests must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 3 days of the sail date. A second test is no longer required for any guests at the terminal.

Cruises departing from United States homeports with port stops in Bermuda or Canada:

Testing requirement on all cruises regardless of length:

  • Vaccinated guests must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 2 days of the sail date.
  • Unvaccinated guests aged 2-11 must present a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 3 days before boarding day. Only PCR tests will be accepted for unvaccinated kids, and the test cannot be taken on boarding day.
  • Unvaccinated guests aged 2-11 will have another COVID-19 test taken at the cruise terminal on embarkation day.

Cruises departing from Vancouver, Canada

  • Vaccinated guests must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 2 days of the sail date.
  • Unvaccinated guests aged 2-11 must present a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 3 days of the sail date. Only PCR tests will be accepted for unvaccinated kids, and the test cannot be taken on boarding day.
  • Unvaccinated guests aged 2-11 will have another COVID-19 test taken at the cruise terminal on embarkation day.

Note: PCR tests for unvaccinated children are the only test to adhere to an hour requirement as opposed to days. Tests must be taken no more than 72 hours prior to scheduled boarding time on embarkation day. For example, if you are scheduled to board at 12PM on Friday, your test must be taken after 11:59AM on Tuesday.

All travelers arriving in Canada by air or sea will also have to fill out a form on the ArriveCAN app.

Related: How to use the ArriveCAN app for your Alaska cruise

Cruises departing from European homeports (Excluding Greece and Spain)

  • All vaccinated guests must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 2 days of the sail date.
  • Unvaccinated kids aged 2-17 must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 1 day of the sail date.

Cruises departing from Athens, Greece

  • All guests aged 2 and older must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 2 days of the sail date.
  • Telehealth tests are not accepted on cruises departing from Athens.

In addition to the pre-cruise test, guests age 12 and up who are considered not up to date with their vaccination, or are not vaccinated with an EMA-authorized vaccine, will require additional testing to be completed onboard at their own expense, in order to go ashore in select countries.

Guests 12 and up that are not up to date with their vaccinations will take an antigen test within one day before disembarkation day. Guests will be notified onboard about how to register for this test. The cost of the test is at their own expense, conducted onboard by a licensed third-party testing provider at a cost of $55 USD per test. Royal Caribbean does not retain any part of the testing costs.

Cruises departing from Spain

  • Vaccinated guests who are up to date must show a negative result for a PCR or an antigen test taken no more than 2 days before boarding day.
  • Vaccinated guests who are not up to date will have a 1 day window to take this test. Kids age 5 to 11 who have been vaccinated may follow the testing protocols for vaccinated guests.
  • Unvaccinated kids aged 2-11 must present a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) taken within 1 day of the sail date.

Note: To see if you are up to date on vaccinations, check here.

Cruises departing from Australia

Testing protocols have not yet been released for Australia cruises. However, Royal Caribbean has stated that it is likely that all guests will need to present a negative Covid-19 test.

Cruises departing from Singapore

  • All guests must present a negative COVID-19 test result (nasal swab or saliva test) taken within 1 day of the sail date. Test results must be in English.

What does "within X days of the sail date" mean?

Depending on your departure port and vaccination status, you will have to take a Covid test 1, 2, or 3 days prior to your sail date.

Test required within 3 days of sail date:

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

Test required within 2 days of sail date:

  • 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

Test required within 1 day of sail date:

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

    The amount of hours that have passed since your test do not matter. 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.

    Where can I get my Covid test?

    The easiest and most convenient option for travelers who are eligible to take an antigen test 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.).

    Note: Do not use the regular Abbot BinaxNow test sold over the counter, as it does not have a proctor watching you take the test.

    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, when possible, 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

    How do I present my test results?

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

    Additional testing requirements by port

    Most countries have gotten rid of inbound testing requirements when arriving by land, air, or sea. Before your cruise, however, double check to ensure no negative COVID-19 test results are needed upon arrival to your destination.

    Here are the websites of the current protocols by country:

    Royal Caribbean drops vaccine requirement for certain cruise ship sailings

    In:
    10 Aug 2022

    Royal Caribbean wont require passengers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 on select sailings beginning in September.

    Ship sailing

    Up until now, only unvaccinated guests under the age of 12 have been allowed on Royal Caribbean ships.

    Starting with September 5th departures guests regardless of their vaccination status, can cruise on the following itineraries, as long as they meet any testing requirements to board: 

    • Cruises from Los Angeles, California 
    • Cruises from Galveston, Texas 
      • Please note, currently, only guests that show a valid vaccination record can get off the ship in Grand Cayman.
    • Cruises from New Orleans, Louisiana
      • Please note, currently, only guests that show a valid vaccination record can get off the ship in Grand Cayman.
    • Cruises from a European homeport 
      • Please note, guests who are not “up to date” on their vaccination per EMA standards will need to take a test onboard in order to get off the ship in Greece and Spain. 

    Vaccination requirements remain in place until further notice for any homeport that is not mentioned above. 

    Royal Caribbean says it is working to allow unvaccinated on other sailings, but they need to coordinate with other countries first.

    "We are working with local governments in the Eastern Caribbean to align on vaccination requirements for more itineraries. We want to ensure a great experience going ashore at these ports, for guests of any vaccination status, while meeting local health regulations."

    Missing from this list are cruises that visit destinations in The Bahamas or Eastern Caribbean.

    Royal Caribbean believes that even by allowing unvaccinated passengers onboard, their health protocols far exceed that of other forms of leisure travel, "We continue to maintain additional layers of protection that far exceed any other vacation experience. This includes vaccination of all crew and keeping them up to date with boosters when eligible, routine surveillance of all crew, enhanced testing and treatment capabilities in our onboard medical centers, and much more."

    Testing requirements

    Here are the pre-arrival testing requirements for the sailings that allow unvaccinated passengers onboard.

    Los Angeles & Galveston departures:

    • Cruises 5 nights or less: 
      • Unvaccinated guests aged 2 years and older must present a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 3 days of the sail date. 
      • Vaccinated guests, regardless of age, no longer need to test for sailing lengths of 5 nights or less. 
    • Cruises 6 nights or more: All guests aged 2 years and older, regardless of vaccination status, must present a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 3 days of the sail date.
    • Accepted Tests: Any FDA‐approved PCR or antigen test supervised in person or by a telehealth professional meet this requirement.

    Europe departures:

    • Testing requirements remain unchanged
    Port of New Orleans

    New Orleans departures:

    • Testing requirements have not been finalized

    Why can cruise lines now allow unvaccinated passengers onboard?

    Water slides on Adventure of the Seas

    The change in policy is rooted primarily in a change in policy by the U.S. government.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ended its Covid-19 program for U.S. cruise ships July 18, 2022. This allowed the cruise lines to develop their own protocols, instead of it being mandated.

    The CDC still makes recommendations to the lines, but ultimately, cruise lines craft protocols as they see fit, similar to other forms of leisure travel.

    Celebrity Cruises will allow unvaccinated too

    Celebrity cruise ship sailing

    Celebrity Cruises will also allow unvaccinated cruisers onboard.

    Beginning September 5th, 2022, all travelers, regardless of vaccination status, can now cruise on the following Celebrity Cruises sailings as long as they meet any testing requirements to board:

    • All sailings departing from the UK and Europe (with the exception of Iceland)
    • All sailings departing from Los Angeles to Mexican Riviera 

    All other sailings (and sailings departing before September 5, 2022), the old restrictions still apply.

    Other cruise lines also allowing unvaccinated onboard.

    Norwegian Breakaway

    Royal Caribbean's announcement follows other cruise lines that have already relaxed their vaccine restrictions recently.

    Norwegian Cruise Line made headlines when it announced it would end its vaccine requirement.

    Beginning September 3, cruisers that are 12 or older who are unvaccinated or don't show proof of vaccination will be allowed onboard as long as they can show the results of a negative antigen or PCR test taken in the 72 hours before boarding. 

    Children under 12 will have no testing or vaccination requirements.

    NCL's policy also applies to sister brands Oceania and Regent Seven Seas.

    NCL's rule change is subject to certain local guidelines, so cruises visiting Canada, Bermuda, or Greece will still require adults to be vaccinated.

    Royal Princess in Vancouver

    Princess Cruises will also begin welcoming a small amount of unvaccinated adults onboard.

    Princess said it will allow up to 10% of unvaccinated guests on most sailings without exemptions or vaccine status justification. Unvaccinated cruisers must apply on a first-come, first-served basis.  Guests will need to notify the reservations team at time of booking to ensure that they are counted as part of the 10% threshold.  

    Paradigm shift in policy

    Royal Caribbean headquarters in Miami

    Allowing unvaccinated guests back on at least some ships is a major shift in policy from the last two years.

    Cruise lines have restricted their ships to only allow adults that are fully vaccinated onboard since sailings restarted in late 2020.

    When Royal Caribbean resumed cruises in summer 2021, vaccine requirements were in place and remained so until now.

    Royal Caribbean logo

    Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty spoke about the change during an earnings call with investors a few weeks ago and said the change is a move to be more like other forms of leisure travel, such as theme parks, casinos, or air travel. 

    "We are continuing to adapt our protocols to align more closely with how the rest of society and other travel and leisure businesses are operating."

    "This means that we're transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us while always working with our destination partners to meet their regulations."

    Royal Caribbean announces Covid-19 protocols for Australia cruises

    In:
    09 Aug 2022

    Royal Caribbean announced its health protocols for cruise ships sailing from Australia during the upcoming cruise season.

    Ovation of the Seas in Sydney Harbor

    These include government mandates and boarding day requirements.

    Royal Caribbean warned that protocols can likely change between now and when your sailing may occur.

    Health policies

    Sydney opera house

    All guests must review and acknowledge they have read and accepted their obligation to comply with Australian Government protocols and Royal Caribbean supplementary terms and conditions.

    All guests, including Australians citizens, must ensure they meet Australia’s international border entry requirements, including vaccination status, visa, and travel exemption requirements.

    Vaccine Requirements

    Passport and immunization record card

    Per Australian Federal and State Government guidelines for cruising, at least 95% of guests must be fully vaccinated for Covid-19.

    All guests ages 12 & older will need to present proof of full vaccination approved by the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration),  at the terminal in order to sail. 

    Full vaccination requires that guests have all doses of their Covid-19 vaccine completed no less than 14 days prior to sailing.

    Australia Vaccine Passport

    Children ages 11 and under, and guests with medical exemptions, are permitted to travel however there is a limit on the number of unvaccinated guests that can travel on each cruise departure.

    If you are travelling with unvaccinated children under the age of 12, or if anyone in your travel party is unvaccinated due to a medical exemption, please be sure to advise Royal Caribbean of their vaccination status by contacting your travel advisor, completing our form sent 7 days after your booking is created, or by calling your local office directly.

    Testing

    Radiance Class ship in Australia

    Pre-Cruise

    Before arriving on boarding day, it is likely that all guests travelling with us will need to receive a negative COVID-19 test on their own, at their own expense, to meet boarding requirements in line with Australian Federal and State Government guidance.

    Please note: More information regarding testing requirements will be made available closer to your sailing.

    Masks

    At the cruise terminal, it is likely that masks will be required.

    Onboard, it is likely that masks will be optional for vaccinated guests and recommended for unvaccinated children while onboard.

    Some of the destinations may require masks. Guests under 2 years of age will not need to wear a mask.

    Dining & Other Venues

    Mariner of the Seas dining room

    Tables and chairs in all the dining areas onboard are sanitized frequently.

    Shore Excursions

    Brisbane, Australia

    Requirements for going ashore are subject to change as circumstances evolve, and we will continue to update booked guests of any requirements for their upcoming sailing via email.

    Royal Caribbean drops testing for vaccinated passengers with new Covid protocols for U.S. sailings

    In:
    04 Aug 2022

    Royal Caribbean has posted its initial Covid-19 health protocols for cruises that include the dropping of Covid-19 testing on short sailings for vaccinated passengers.

    Last week, Royal Caribbean Group announced it would not test passengers on short sailings from the U.S.

    Royal Caribbean's website has been updated with new rules for cruises departing from U.S. homeports on or after August 8, 2022 that do not visit Bermuda or Canada. 

    Guests on cruises visiting Canada or Bermuda will still need to follow the current testing protocols until further notice.

    Wonder of the Seas aerial overhead

    Royal Caribbean said in a posting on its website, "We are currently developing updated protocols that provide for the continued safety of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit, better align with the travel and hospitality sector, and meet destination regulations. This means we’re transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us."

    New Covid policy changes

    The major change is in testing for passengers sailing from the U.S. August 8 -  August 14th, 2022.

    Fully vaccinated guests will only have to show a test result at boarding if the sailing is 6 nights or longer.

    Unvaccinated children will still need to show a test result to board all sailings, regardless of length. However, they will not need to test again at the terminal.

    Guests will now have the same test standard, regardless of vaccination status: You can show a negative test result from a supervised PCR or antigen test taken within the 3 days before your boarding day. 

    Previously, unvaccinated children were required to only take a PCR test. Moreover, vaccinated guests had to get their test done within 2 days of sailing. This new change gives vaccinated guests more time to get a test completed and unvaccinated kids the choice to take a rapid antigen test instead.

    Required testing for all guests, regardless of vaccination status, must be completed using a PCR or antigen test that is supervised by a healthcare professional or a home test kit that is conducted under live video supervision.

    Tests must be arranged on your own and are at your own expense. 

    Guests confirmed on U.S. sailings departing on or before August 7, 2022, should adhere to protocols previously communicated.

    For those guests booked after August 14, 2022, please await the specific protocol details from the cruise line related to those sailings. 

    No change in vaccination policy yet

    There's been no change as of yet to the vaccination requirements, despite Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley confirming a change was coming.

    "Additional information will soon follow, however, until then, current vaccine guidance remains unchanged."

    Oasis of the Seas in Port Canaveral

    The website does include language that points to a change, but no policy shift has happened yet, "We are continuing to work with our destination partners to evolve and finalize other travel protocols, as we begin transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us."

    "We look forward to providing more updates in coming days."

    Last week, Mr. Bayley posted on Facebook that Royal Caribbean cruise ships will sail at 80% vaccinated, leaving the extra 20% for unvaccinated. 

    Back-to-Back Sailings Testing

    Allure of the Seas at the gangway

    Celebrity Cruises also posted their new protocols, which include a mention of back-to-back sailings.

    Testing for back-to-back sailings is not required for all sailings. Guests will be notified onboard if testing is required and will be provided testing at no cost if needed.

    This back-to-back testing policy applies to sailings on any ships within the Royal Caribbean Group which includes Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and SilverSea.

    Royal Caribbean will allow unvaccinated passengers on cruise ships in early August

    In:
    29 Jul 2022

    For the first time in two years, unvaccinated guests of all ages will be allowed to sail on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship later this summer.

    Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley posted on social media the news about the change in testing coming next month, in which Covid testing for vaccinated passengers on short sailings will no longer be required.

    Mr. Bayley also said, "Unvaccinated guests will be required to take one test within 3 days of departure. We will also continue to operate highly vaccinated cruises with a vaccinated population greater than society and which continues to exempt kids 12 and under and we will welcome unvaccinated guests over 12 and guests with a certificate of recovery within 90 days to travel keeping in mind our ships will typically sail with 80 percent plus vaccinated guests onboard. "

    I reached out to Royal Caribbean's communication department to get confirmation on the Facebook posting.

    Royal Caribbean confirmed for RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com that starting August 8th, 2022, unvaccinated guests of any age will be allowed onboard.

    A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean verified the change in policy, "starting August 8th, 2022, we’ll be transitioning so that we can welcome all guests onboard our ships."

    "We will maintain a high percentage of fully vaccinated guests onboard all our sailings, far above the general population."

    "Vaccination and testing requirements may vary by port of departure, ports of call, and age group. We are working through this with our destination partners."

    Up until now, only unvaccinated guests under the age of 12 have been allowed on Royal Caribbean ships.

    Independence of the Seas aerial view birds eye

    The change in policy is a result of the the CDC ending its Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships.

    No further details on the policy change were shared, but Royal Caribbean said further details will be released the week of August 1.

    A major change in policy

    Allowing unvaccinated passengers on ships is a big change, as this segment of the population has been left out of the cruise industry restart until now.

    Ever since cruises restarted in the United States in 2021, all cruise lines have required anyone eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine to be vaccinated in order to sail on a cruise ship.

    Royal Caribbean is the second line to change its policy, following Virgin Voyages announcement last week that it would allow up to 10% of passengers on any given sailing to be unvaccinated for Covid-19.

    In a statement to investors on Thursday, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said the change is a move to be more like other forms of leisure travel, such as theme parks, casinos, or air travel. 

    "We are continuing to adapt our protocols to align more closely with how the rest of society and other travel and leisure businesses are operating."

    "This means that we're transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us while always working with our destination partners to meet their regulations."

    Mr. Liberty told investors during an earnings call on July 28th that the close work between the cruise industry and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allowed this progression in policy to occur.

    "The other major milestone for the group, and the industry, is related to the CDC ending its program for cruise ships, as we are now transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us."

    "After two years of successfully working with us, the CDC has transitioned from enforcing protocols and policies for the cruise industry to suggestions and recommendations to be in line with the travel and tourism sector."

    "That speaks to the great work we've done together as an industry."

    Royal Caribbean will drop Covid-19 testing for vaccinated cruisers on shorter sailings

    In:
    28 Jul 2022

    Very soon, fully vaccinated guests won't have to bother with a Covid test on cruises less than six nights.

    Freedom of the Seas sailing away from Miami

    Included in Royal Caribbean Group's second quarter financial results was a mention of a policy change related to Covid-19 testing.

    Starting Aug. 8, testing will be required for unvaccinated guests on all voyages and for vaccinated guests only on voyages that are six nights or longer. 

    Up until now, all guests were required to get a Covid-19 test completed prior to their cruise, regardless of vaccination status.

    Cruise ship docked in Miami

    The change in policy is a result of the the CDC ending its Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships.

    No further details on the policy change were part of the press release, but we should expect more information in the coming days.

    A major change in policy

    Covid-19 testing has been a cornerstone of Royal Caribbean's health protocols since cruises restarted in 2021.

    Up until now, vaccinated guests had to get either a PCR or rapid antigen test up to 2 days before sailing. Unvaccinated children had to get a PCR test only up to 3 days before sailing.

    Virgin Voyages was the first cruise line in the United States to drop testing. Norwegian Cruise Line has also eliminated testing for vaccinated travelers for all cruises sailing from any port except in the U.S., Canada, or Piraeus, Greece.

    Eliminating testing for vaccinated passengers removes a major obstacle to pre-cruise stress, as many cruisers were concerned they weren't sure they would actually be able to sail until just a couple days before their cruise.

    Mr. Liberty said the change is a move to be more like other forms of leisure travel, such as theme parks, casinos, or air travel. 

    "We are continuing to adapt our protocols to align more closely with how the rest of society and other travel and leisure businesses are operating."

    "This means that we're transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us while always working with our destination partners to meet their regulations."

    Testing expected to drop for longer sailings soon

    Oasis of the Seas in New York with Statue of Liberty

    If you'd like to see Covid testing drop also for longer sailings, it sounds like Royal Caribbean has a plan for it.

    Speaking to investors during an earnings call on Thursday, Mr. Liberty said, "We also anticipate in the not too distant future that pre-embarkation testing for longer duration voyages will be reduced."

    He later elaborated on changing testing requirements for longer sailings, "We're starting off here by doing the five days or less, and we're going to look at that."

    "I think our our expectation here, call it in the next 45 days or so. And, of course, following local requirements, which will somewhat dictate in some of our destinations what those testing requirements will be, that the majority of the testing requirements will will be lifted, especially around the majority of our of our deployment."

    Less testing should translate into more bookings

    As soon as Royal Caribbean Group announced the change, the company expects bookings to spike as a result.

    Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley spoke about the reaction in the marketplace to dropping testing for short cruises, "this kind of change I think will be seen very positively."

    "We've got some distributors who have been anxiously awaiting changes as long as along with many of our customers."

    Cantilevered hot tub on Freedom of the Seas

    "One of the calculations that we have is about 40% of all of the folks that are sitting on the byline. So people who've been waiting for the protocols to change."

    "I think this easement and this change is going to be viewed very positively. So we're expecting to see an increase in bookings literally starting today."

    Unvaccinated passengers too?

    Wonder of the Seas pool deck

    Depending on how much you want to dissect Mr. Liberty's words, it sounds like the company is looking to someday allow unvaccinated passengers of all ages onboard.

    When Mr. Liberty said, "This means that we're transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us while always working with our destination partners to meet their regulations," it sounds like it could point to allowing unvaccinated cruisers onboard.

    Up until now, only unvaccinated guests under the age of 12 have been allowed on Royal Caribbean ships.

    Time will tell.

    Reader reactions

    Allure of the Seas

    As soon as news came out of the change, many cruisers shared their thoughts on the policy shift.

    Certainly anyone with a short cruise booked was happy to see the change. Cinthya Rod wrote on the Royal Caribbean Blog Facebook page, "Great news! For our next cruise will be awesome."

    Beth Coddington likes where the policy is headed, "That's a step in the right direction."

    Explorer of the Seas docked

    A number of cruisers questioned the logic of picking 6 nights instead of 7 nights.

    Mark Middleton wrote, "What’s the difference, for testing purposes, between a six and seven night sailing? Many are seven nights so would be easier for that!"

    Greg Crouch added, "Seeing as most Royal Caribbean cruises are 7 nights it's not an enormous difference for most of us. Test the unvaccinated and not boosted by all means."

    Kelly Lene-Tarman shared her thoughts, "Instead of complaining about it only being 6 nights or less, or why not unvaccinated, etc., let's look at the positive in this. They are are doing this in small steps to see how it goes and if all works well, everyone will be welcome to cruise again!"

    CDC posts new Covid-19 recommendations for cruise ships

    In:
    21 Jul 2022

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new recommendations pertaining to Covid-19 for cruise ships and cruise lines.

    Oasis of the Seas in Cozumel

    Included in the recent post, the CDC addresses the following categories; onboard Covid-19 response plans, shoreside response plans, port operation components, medical care components, housing components, Covid-19 vaccines, surveillance for Covid-19, Covid-19 surveillance testing reminders, and procedures for embarking passengers including pre-embarkation Covid-19 testing.

    This recent posting by the CDC comes on the heels of their announcement on July 18th, 2022 that the voluntary Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships was coming to an end.

    Instead, the CDC would provide general guidance and recommendations to cruise lines for safe practices regarding Covid-19. With this new guidance, the CDC will instead provide general health and safety recommendations to cruise lines, this is very similar to how they are providing guidance to other areas of the travel industry, such as airlines.

    CDC headquarters

    “As of July 18, 2022, CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is no longer in effect. CDC will continue to publish guidance to help cruise ships continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and communities going forward,” states the CDC on their website.

    The CDC stated in this new posting, “this guidance is based on the best available science regarding the subject areas covered. CDC will reevaluate the guidance for cruise ships periodically, based on scientific evidence and the state of the pandemic, and update the guidance as needed. CDC will notify cruise ship operators if the guidance is updated.”

    As reported last week, the guidance posted by the CDC are only recommendations, not changes being made to cruise line protocols. Each individual cruise line, including Royal Caribbean, will evaluate the recommendations made by the CDC and will choose what their individual protocols will be.

    The most recent guidance presented by the CDC cover nearly every aspect of cruising, including Covid-19 vaccines. The CDC says the following about Covid-19 vaccines for cruise travelers, “CDC recommends all eligible travelers be up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.”

    The guidance also recommend that cruise ships conduct pre-embarkation Covid-19 testing saying, “to reduce likelihood of onboard transmission, cruise ship operators should consider requiring travelers to get tested for current infection with a viral test as close to the time of departure as possible (no more than 3 days before travel) and present their negative test result prior to boarding. Testing within 1 day of embarkation is highly recommended.”

    Covid test

    The posted guidance by the CDC mean the organization is still recommending that cruise passengers be both vaccinated against Covid-19, as well as take a Covid-19 test prior to boarding a cruise ship.

    It is important to know that this guidance posted by the CDC are only recommendations for cruise lines, and that it is up to each cruise line which, if any, of the recommendations they choose to follow.

    The decision to end the CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, allows cruise lines to determine and set their own individual Covid-19 policies and requirements.

    Royal Caribbean posts their Covid-19 requirements on their website under their “Healthy Sail Center”. “The U.S. CDC recently announced that the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is no longer in effect, and published recommendations to guide cruise lines as they determine protocols. Upon review, we will adjust our protocols and provide guidance to our guests. For now, our current protocols remain in effect for cruises departing U.S. homeports,” states Royal Caribbean on their website as of today, July 21, 2022.

    Currently, Royal Caribbean has adjusted requirements for sailing depending on where the cruise ship embarks from. For example, passengers embarking on a cruise from Florida must meet the following requirements in order to sail: be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at least 14 days before sailing (children age 11 and under are not required to be vaccinated against Covid-19). Guests sailing from Florida are also required to take a Covid-19 test before sailing. “Before arriving on boarding day, you’ll need to take a COVID-19 test on your own, at your own expense, to meet boarding requirements in line with U.S. CDC guidance. Vaccinated guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test no more that 2 days before boarding day,” states Royal Caribbean on their website. Royal Caribbean’s Covid-19 requirements and protocols depends on the embarkation location and the destination of the cruise ship, it is important that guests check Royal Caribbean’s website for the most recent requirements before sailing. 

    Serenade of the Seas in St Lucia

    With the end of the CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, it is likely that changes to Covid-19 protocols for cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean will be made.

    For the most up to date Covid-19 protocols for cruising with Royal Caribbean read here.

    Readers can view the most recent posting by the CDC pertaining to cruise ships here.

    CDC ends Covid-19 program for cruise ships

    In:
    18 Jul 2022

    The end of U.S. government Covid-19 cruise ship protocols is here.

    Wonder of the Seas

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced the end of its voluntary Covid-19 program. As of July 18, 2022, the program is no longer in effect; rather, the CDC will provide general guidance to help cruise lines continue providing a safe and healthy environment for all passengers and crew members.   

    The CDC will now take a general approach to providing health and safety guidance to the cruising sector, similar to how it provides guidance to all other travel sectors.   

    In regards to cruise line protocols, it's important to emphasize that nothing has changed yet.

    Most cruise lines protocols still include vaccination and testing requirements; however, the cruise lines now have the freedom to choose their own protocols with the end of the voluntary Covid-19 program.  

    This new phase of pandemic guidance is a welcome change for the cruise lines, as the CDC will not replace the voluntary program with any other program.

    Symphony of the Seas sailing away

    This is a step towards a new normal for the cruise industry, which had been strictly regulated by the CDC since the onset of the pandemic. 

    Cruise Industry Reaction

    Shortly after the CDC made the announcement, the cruise industry had an overall positive reaction to the news. 

    Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the association that represents the cruise industry, released a statement fully supporting the CDC's decision to end the program.

    Allure of the Seas aerial rear

    The association gave the following statement in response to the change: "The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and its member cruise lines welcome the decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to end the CDC COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters in favor of a set of guidelines for public health operations on cruise ships."

    The association said it looks forward to reviewing the new guidance details that will be posted on the CDC website in the coming days.

    CLIA continued, "This is an important step forward in the CDC aligning the guidelines for cruises with those it has established for other travel, hospitality, and entertainment sectors."

    Finally, the association shared, "The sunsetting of the CDC Program, effective 18 July 2022, is a testament to the effectiveness of the industry’s comprehensive and robust protocols. In fact, cruising has become one of the safest forms of travel and among the most successful industries in mitigating the spread and severity of COVID-19, resulting in few passengers or crew becoming seriously ill or requiring hospitalization compared to hospital statistics for landside patients."

    Voluntary Program Details

    Radiance of the Seas

    The CDC’s Voluntary Covid-19 was implemented at the expiration of the Conditional Sail Order, which expired in January 2022. During this time, the new omicron variant had been running rampant throughout the U.S. and cruise lines were navigating the spread of a more contagious variant both on land and at sea.

    Today’s expiration of the program marks the start of a new era for the cruise lines, in which they can establish their own set of health and safety protocols.

    Wonder of the Seas at night aerial

    Under the CDC's voluntary Covid-19 program, cruise lines had the option to opt into 3 different programs voluntarily: Not Highly Vaccinated, Highly Vaccinated and Vaccination Standard of Excellence. 

    Royal Caribbean joined the ‘highly-vaccinated program’, which required 95% of passengers on each sailing to be fully vaccinated. The program also required that 95% of the cruise ship’s crew be fully vaccinated as well. The highly vaccinated program, along with its policies and protocols, went into effect on February 25, 2022. 

    By adapting the highly vaccinated program, passengers onboard Royal Caribbean’s sailings were no longer required to wear masks onboard. Instead, the cruise lines shifted to masks being optional for passengers.

    This was a welcomed change for Royal Caribbean cruisers, as masks were previously required indoors during any period in which passengers were not eating or drinking actively.

    The CDC required cruise lines that opted into the program to provide vaccination status for each participating cruise ship. The 95% threshold for vaccination was also required for every single voyage on each participating cruise ship.

    Anthem of the Seas aerial

    Participating ships were also required to document, surveillance and report onboard Covid-19 cases for each sailing to the CDC. Using this data, the CDC established a color-coding system to designate the spread of Covid-19 on each ship, which was published on a public dashboard. 

    The end of the CDC's voluntary Covid-19 program reflects the travel industry's overall shift towards managing Covid-19 as a new normal.

    Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Reflecting on getting covid on my Alaska cruise

    In:
    29 Jun 2022

    Listen to the Show

    As an addendum to last week's episode, here's a look at my experience with Covid and a look back at the experience.

    You can read the timeline of events in this post https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2022/06/13/what-happened-when-i-tested-positive-covid-royal-caribbean-cruise-ship

    On this episode:
    Running time:

    Royal Caribbean CEO talks when pre-cruise Covid testing and vaccine mandate will last

    In:
    27 Jun 2022

    How much longer will cruise ship passengers have to take a covid test before their sailing and be required to be vaccinated?

    Michael Bayley

    Those two questions are among the most frequently asked since cruising restarted in 2021, and it was asked of Royal Caribbean's top executive this weekend.

    Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley took questions from cruise fans during a question and answer session while aboard Ovation of the Seas for the 2022 President's Cruise.

    Here's what he had to say about both topics.

    Pre-cruise testing

    Woman taking covid test

    There has been a little bit of conjecture tied to the cruise industry looking for pre-cruise testing to be reviewed as a requirement.

    "I think pre cruise testing is going to be around for another couple of months," Mr. Bayley answered.

    "We obviously want it to go back to normal, but we're incredibly cognizant of our responsibilities to keep our crew, the communities and our guests safe."

    CDC headquarters

    He talked about the long journey the cruise lines have had with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and how initially the CDC flat out refused to talk to them.

    "And they were in many ways successful in working as we were working with them in creating the protocols that allowed the industry to return last July."

    How successful have these health protocols been? 

    Side of Royal Caribbean cruise ship

    Mr. Bayley mentioned in a call with the CDC two weeks ago, the CDC shared an amazing statistic, "the cruise industry sailing out of the US ports over the past 12 months and how many people have been hospitalized with Covid and how many deaths occurred from Covid from people who'd sailed on the industry's ships, which is in the millions.

    "And the number of people who died from COVID who'd sailed on ships over the past year was two."

    "Two is terrible. But but but against the context of everything we've seen, that's it's truly been a remarkable success."

    Vaccine requirements

    So if pre-cruise testing is still "another couple of months" of away, when might the requirement for adults to be vaccinated against Covid-19 remain?

    Mr. Bayley admitted it's still a big unknown, "The no vaccine question is is a huge question that none of us know the answer to."

    "I'm skeptical that's going to change in the in the real short term. Many and most of the destinations that we visit require a high degree of vaccination, and they expect our crew to be vaccinated."

    "So many of the destinations in the Caribbean simply don't have the kind of medical facilities and care that we've got back in the States. So they genuinely are very vulnerable. And so they're obviously very concerned."

    Many unvaccinated people point out how Covid cases still pop up on the ship, and Mr. Bayley talked about that, "I understand if you're vaccinated, you can be Covid positive and all that kind of stuff. But it's the societal response to this and it's and governments have responded to it."

    "We're constantly talking to different destinations. And I would say this is one of the areas where they're pretty fixed on it."

    "Who knows how it's going to change as we move through the months."

     

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