Two of the largest cruise ship operators in the U.S. announced they’ve relaxed COVID-19 rules, coming weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rescinded its mandatory testing guidelines.
Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Group both announced in separate statements that they will remove some testing requirements for vaccinated customers.
Vaccinated passengers on Carnival cruises and Carnival-owned cruise lines will no longer have to present a negative PCR or rapid antigen test result before getting on board trips that last fewer than six days, according to the company. The policy went into effect on Thursday.
“Carnival is pleased to announce that we are adjusting certain protocols to reflect the lifting of CDC requirements for the U.S. cruise industry. These changes will be made in phases, with the first taking effect on Thursday, August 4, 2022, and focused on short cruise itineraries of 5 nights or less. All changes are subject to any requirements of destinations on the itinerary. We are waiting to hear back from certain destinations and these protocols will continue to evolve,” said the company in a statement.
Also, it added, “in-terminal testing for unvaccinated guests on the day of departure for any voyage is no longer required,” according to the statement. “Except where differences are specified, all unvaccinated guests age 2 and older must provide the negative result of a lab-administered or supervised self-administered PCR or antigen COVID test taken up to 3 days before embarkation.”
Meanwhile, a similar policy was implemented on Royal Caribbean-operated cruise lines starting Aug. 8, according to a statement from the firm.
“Fully vaccinated guests will only have to show a test result at boarding if the sailing is 6 nights or longer,” said Royal Caribbean, adding that “unvaccinated children will still need to show a test result to board all sailings, regardless of length.”
“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,” the statement continued.
Smaller cruise operators such as Azamara Cruises, MSC Cruises, and several others have scrapped vaccination and testing requirements altogether.
The moves came after a decision handed down by the CDC on July 18 that ended its reporting system for cruise ships, which was hailed by cruise industry groups. Cruise operators have said COVID-19 restrictions have crushed the industry over the past two years—amid high-profile incidents involving viral outbreaks on ships.
“CDC has worked closely with the cruise industry, state, territorial, and local health authorities, and federal and seaport partners to provide a safer and healthier environment for cruise passengers and crew,” the federal health agency said last month. “Cruise ships have access to guidance and tools to manage their own COVID-19 mitigation programs.”
In early 2020, a widespread COVID-19 outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship drew international headlines as Japan’s government refused to allow passengers to disembark. Two other cruise ships operated by Holland America were blocked from entering several countries and some U.S. states amid COVID-19 outbreaks.