Several cruise lines have eliminated their requirement for a negative COVID test before boarding for some passengers in the wake of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention halting its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships.

The CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships was dropped in mid-July as the agency said, “cruise travelers have access to recommendations that allow them to make informed decisions about cruise ship travel.”

The COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships was a voluntary program that provided recommendations for cruise lines on COVID protocols such as vaccinations and testing.

Following the announcement by the CDC, seven cruise lines have rolled back their COVID testing policy for vaccinated passengers embarking on their ships.

One of the first to announce that it would no longer have a COVID testing requirement for all passengers was Virgin Voyages. The company said on its website that it was removing the requirement for a COVID-19 test to boarding on its Valiant Lady and Scarlet Lady ships at the end of July.

The cruise line also opened up 10% of its sailing to unvaccinated passengers but said its crew members would continue to be fully vaccinated.

Also updating its COVID policies was cruise line Azamara, which said on its website as of July 25, it would stop requiring COVID-19 tests for its passengers. However, the company said testing would still be required in ports that have the requirement in accordance with country regulations.

Margaritaville at Sea also dropped its COVID testing requirement for vaccinated passengers on July 22. The cruise line said that vaccinated passengers need to provide proof of inoculation, while nonvaccinated passengers would need a negative Antigen test verified by a testing agency taken no more than one day prior to sailing.

More recently, Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and MSC Cruises announced that they also were not requiring vaccinated passengers to have a negative COVID test for pre-embarkation on shorter voyages.

Carnival on Thursday will drop COVID testing for fully vaccinated passengers on “certain cruises with itineraries 5 days or less” unless a destination has a different requirement, it said on its COVID-19 guest protocols webpage. These destinations include the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Grand Cayman, where COVID testing prior to boarding is required regardless of the length of the sailing.

Cruises that are six days or longer will still require a negative COVID test for boarding a Carnival cruise for passengers aged 2 and older unless a destination has a different requirement. Those on a back-to-back cruise 16 days or longer will also be tested mid-voyage, Carnival said.

MSC’s COVID testing policy will change on Aug. 8, according to its website, which said only unvaccinated passengers will be required to provide a negative COVID test for pre-embarkation of the company’s ships on all sailings. Vaccinated passengers will also need to submit a negative COVID test on voyages that are six nights or longer.

Also on Aug. 8, Royal Caribbean passengers who are vaccinated and on sailings that are five nights or less will no longer need COVID testing, the cruise line said in a statement on its website. But if a vaccinated passenger is on a sailing that is six nights or longer, the cruise lines are still requiring a negative COVID test for boarding.

Lastly, Norwegian Cruise Line updated its COVID testing policy, eliminating testing for vaccinated passengers, according to its website. The cruise line requires passengers 12 and older to be fully vaccinated.

The 'Wonder of the Seas' cruise ship of the company Royal Caribbean, the world’s largest cruise ship, is docked at a port in Malaga, Spain, April 30, 2022.
The 'Wonder of the Seas' cruise ship of the company Royal Caribbean, the world’s largest cruise ship, is docked at a port in Malaga, Spain, April 30, 2022. Reuters / JON NAZCA
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