As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped its voluntary COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, three cruise lines have also ended their pre-cruise requirements for COVID testing prior to boarding for some passengers.

On July 18, the CDC ended its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, which provided recommendations to the cruise industry, including vaccination and COVID testing requirements, saying at the time that cruise lines have the ability to “manage their own COVID-19 mitigation programs.”

The agency continued by saying that “cruise travelers have access to recommendations that allow them to make informed decisions about cruise ship travel” but maintained that “cruising poses some risk of COVID-19 transmission.”

On the heels of the announcement from the CDC, Virgin Voyages, Azamara, and Margaritaville at Sea eliminated the requirements for guests to provide negative COVID tests prior to boarding their cruise ships.

Virgin Voyages no longer requires any passenger boarding its ships to have a negative COVID test, implementing the change for its Valiant Lady ship on Sunday, and for its Scarlet Lady ship on Wednesday.

Virgin said on its website that it will still require 90% of passengers to be vaccinated but it is opening up its sailings for 10% of unvaccinated guests. Boosters are not required by the cruise line, which also said that its crew will still be fully vaccinated.

Cruise line Azamara also ended pre-cruise COVID testing on Monday for travelers, except at ports where the requirement is in place per the regulations of the country. Azamara does require proof of COVID vaccination for sailing with the cruise line.

In a statement on its website, Azamara said, “we are continually evaluating these protocols and updating them as public health standards evolve.”

Also making changes to its COVID testing requirements is Margaritaville at Sea, which launched its first ship, the Margaritaville at Sea Paradise, in May. The cruise line no longer requires its vaccinated passengers to have a negative COVID test as it continues to offer vaccinated cruises, with some exceptions.

The company said on its website, “Not only are we following the latest CDC guidelines but have taken additional safety and protective measures to provide you with a safe, healthy, and fun microvacation. As the state of COVID-19 evolves, we will continue adapt our protocols based on public health advisories.”

Unvaccinated passengers looking to board with Margaritaville at Sea will need to provide a negative Antigen COVID test by a verified agency within one day of sailing, the cruise line said.

Also, starting Aug. 1, Norwegian Cruise Line will no longer require COVID testing for vaccinated passengers, but the new policy does not apply to any of its cruises that are departing from a port that is located in the U.S., Canada, or Piraeus, Greece.

The requirements for a "phased resumption" of cruise ship passenger operations were released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The requirements for a "phased resumption" of cruise ship passenger operations were released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention AFP / CHANDAN KHANNA