When cruise lines returned to sailing last year, they did so with a myriad of new rules designed to keep passengers healthy and mitigate the spread of Covid on the ship.
The new requirements included vaccine rules, pre-board testing, masking in some areas, and more. In other words, there have been quite a few hurdles you had to overcome before you even made it onto the ship.
Of course, a lot has changed since then. While the virus continues to be an issue, much of the world has largely returned to normal. That same trend is playing out in cruising. Since the CDC dropped its requirements and let the cruise lines implement their own rules for keeping passengers healthy, trends at sea have mirrored trends on land.
Over the past weeks and months cruise lines have dropped things like masking and even vaccine mandates. Across many lines you can now sail whether you are vaccinated or not. Still, unvaccinated passengers need to be testing before boarding.
Now, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced it is dropping requirements for testing and vaccination. (Some rules do still apply for cruises visiting certain countries like Australia or Greece.)
The cruise line’s website for health protocols now offers the following notice:
“Effective for Sailings October 4, 2022 and Beyond”
“With the relaxation of travel requirements around the world, we’re thrilled to welcome all guests back on our ships to cruise freely to the places they’ve been dreaming of – regardless of vaccination status and with no testing requirements.”
This isn’t to say that all changes are gone from the ships. Norwegian’s website shows it will still have recent upgrades in place like enhanced cleaning, higher-grade air filtration and enhanced medical services.
But for passengers, things like testing and proof of vaccination are no longer needed on many of the cruises. The requirements to take a cruise are now back to what they were before the pandemic.
With that, many passengers who may have otherwise not sailed can now head back to sea.
“Health and safety are always our first priority; in fact, we were the health and safety leaders from the very start of the pandemic,” said Harry Sommer, NCL’s CEO. “Many travelers have been patiently waiting to take their long-awaited vacation at sea and we cannot wait to celebrate their return.”
Will Other Cruise Lines Drop Testing & Other Rules?
While it’s big news that NCL is lifting all its requirements, the even bigger news is what this could mean for the entire industry. In general, once one major cruise line makes a move like this, then the entire industry is quick to follow. It’s already been seen with masking, testing for vaccinated passengers, and vaccine requirements to board.
It seems likely to us that within the next several weeks other big cruise companies will follow suit.
To be sure, the current rules can be complex. Many lines have different testing rules depending on if you’re vaccinated or if recently recovered. And vaccines are required on some cruises (such as extended trips) but not on others. Even the type of test accepted varies based on where the cruise is sailing.
The new policy from Norwegian Cruise Line definitely simplifies things outside of trips to countries with specific requirements.
Don’t be surprised if other cruise lines follow suit soon.