The Perfect Enemy | Carnival, Royal Caribbean among cruise lines relaxing COVID test requirements
August 11, 2022

Carnival, Royal Caribbean among cruise lines relaxing COVID test requirements

Carnival, Royal Caribbean among cruise lines relaxing COVID test requirements  Orlando SentinelView Full Coverage on Google News

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Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Cruises are among those shifting COVID-19 test requirement policies in the wake of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally ending its COVID-19 guidance program.

Carnival announced Friday it will no longer require pre-cruise testing for those who have been vaccinated on its sailings of five days or less beginning Aug. 4. It will still require pre-cruise testing for sailings six nights or longer, but can be conducted within three days of departure.

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The line will no longer be providing any in-terminal testing for unvaccinated guests on the day of departure, and all of those guests ages 2 and older must provide proof of a negative result for either a lab-administered or supervised self-administered antigen COVID test, also within three days before embarkation.

“More changes will be announced shortly and all changes are subject to any requirements of destinations on the itinerary,” the line said in a press release. “We remain, as always, committed to the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we serve.”

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Royal Caribbean has a similar approach to Carnival with pre-cruise testing removed for vaccinated guests on sailings five nights or shorter as of Aug. 8.

“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,” said a statement on the Royal Caribbean website. “This means we’re transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us.”

The CDC’s cruise guidance program was shut down on July18 including the color-coded program that determined to what level COVID-19 was present on vessels. In its FAQ section, the CDC said travelers with COVID-19 outbreak concerns should contact individual cruise lines, although lines will continue to report cases to the CDC.

Virgin Voyages was among the first lines to react to the loosening of COVID-19 cruise reporting by the CDC, announcing it was removing all pre-embarkation testing requirements as of July 21 stating in a press release that it “will mirror the rest of the travel industry in removing pre-embarkation testing for sailings from July 24 on EU sailings, and from July 27 on US sailings.”

It stated it will keep its vaccine requirements in place for Scarlet Lady sailing out of Miami, and Valiant Lady sailing in Europe.

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The change also opens the door for unvaccinated guests to sail on Virgin, although sailings in the U.S. would still adhere to no more than 10% unvaccinated passengers.

Norwegian Cruise Line also removed pre-cruise test requirements for sailings in the European Union, but they remain in place for sailings originating in the U.S., Canada and Greece.

Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises still have preboard testing and vaccination requirements in place.

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Despite the relaxation of test requirements, the spread of the latest variant of COVID-19 has been increasing and remains a risk to those who travel.

The CDC still states that “cruise ships are densely populated congregate settings where respiratory viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), can spread easily among travelers (passengers and crew) on board.”

The 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, and only recently have cruise lines returned most of their fleets to service, having slowly brought more and more ships online.