Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped tracking Covid on cruise ships, major cruise lines have made changes to their policies related to the pandemic on board.
Now, since the government has not set standards for the industry, each cruise line is responsible for setting its own rules.
That may or may not be a problem, but it means that at least for now, Royal Caribbean International (LCR) – Get the Royal Caribbean Group reportCarnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – Get the Carnival Corporation reportand Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get the report from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. they all have different policies.
During the height of the pandemic, that was not the case. The CDC established rules under its mandatory conditional sailing order, and later under a voluntary program that all major cruise lines opted into.
Those rules may have been too restrictive compared to how other travel and entertainment companies were treated. But they created a baseline for the industry.
Now, it’s free for everyone. Royal Caribbean and Carnival have new policies that will go into effect in early August.
And Norwegian has made what might be the most controversial change, effective September 3.
Norwegian makes big changes related to covid-19
Once the CDC stopped monitoring the impact of the pandemic on cruise ships, Carnival and royal caribbean made similar changes. Both have eliminated tests for vaccinated passengers on cruises of less than six nights,
Both RCL and CCL allow a certain number of passengers aged 11 and under to cruise without being vaccinated. But in all cases they require those passengers to provide negative covid tests taken no more than three days before their departures. (That’s a change from the two-day rule for many months.)
Rules vary by destination, but the two largest cruise lines have largely the same rules.
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Norwegian has adopted roughly the same policies as its rivals, with one notable difference, which the company outlined on its website.
“Guests 12 years of age and older will be allowed to board unvaccinated. Unvaccinated guests 12 years of age and older will be required to show proof of a medically supervised negative PCR or antigen test performed no more than 72 hours prior to boarding,” the company said. “For guests age 11 and under, no additional protocols or testing requirements apply.”
No more vaccination requirements in Norwegian
It’s kind of buried in a lot of words, but Norwegian has removed its vaccination requirement for all passengers.
Unvaccinated passengers age 12 and older will still be required to provide a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before their cruises, while unvaccinated passengers age 11 and under don’t even have to be tested.
“Our long-awaited revisions to our testing and vaccination requirements bring us closer to the rest of society, which has learned to adapt to and live with COVID-19, and makes it simpler and easier for our loyal guests to navigate our three best-in-class brands,” Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio said in a press release.
The CEO emphasized that “health and safety is our top priority,” a statement that might not tally perfectly with the rule change.
Royal Caribbean has decided to allow a limited number of unvaccinated passengers over the age of 12, a change that Chairman Michael Bayley discussed on social media.
“Unvaccinated guests will be required to take a test within three days of departure. We will also continue to operate highly vaccinated cruise ships with a larger-than-society vaccinated population and continue to exempt children 12 and [under. And] We will welcome guests over the age of 12 who are not vaccinated and guests with a certificate of recovery within 90 days to travel, keeping in mind that our ships will typically sail with more than 80% of vaccinated guests on board.” , said.
Norwegian did not say if it has any limits on the number of unvaccinated passengers that can sail on each ship.