Carnival Drops Vaccine Requirement to Sail (And Testing for Vaccinated Passengers)

Carnival Cruise Line has joined rivals Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean in announcing that they too are allowing for unvaccinated passengers to sail freely on its ships.

Carnival Freedom ship docked in Nassau.

The announcement, released Friday afternoon, drops the vaccine requirement that had been in place since cruises returned last year. The new rule goes into effect beginning September 6. Previously, unvaccinated passengers over five years old had to apply for an exemption in order to sail without the shot.

In addition, the cruise line also dropped testing before sailing for vaccinated passengers, except in a few specific circumstances.

The new protocols were laid out in the press release:

  • Vaccinated guests must continue to provide evidence of their vaccination status prior to embarkation. Pre-cruise testing is no longer required, except for cruises to Canada, Bermuda, Greece and Australia (per local guidelines), and on voyages 16 nights or longer.
  • Unvaccinated guests are welcome to sail and are no longer required to apply for a vaccine exemption, except for cruises in Australia or on voyages 16 nights and longer.
  • Unvaccinated guests or those who do not provide proof of vaccination must present the results of a negative PCR or antigen test taken within three days of embarkation.
  • All policies are subject to local destination regulations.

Note: Guests under the age of five years are exempt from vaccination and testing requirements from the United States and under the age of 12 from Australia.

“Our ships have been sailing very full all summer, but there is still room for more of our loyal guests, and these guidelines will make it a simpler process, and make cruising accessible for those who were not able to meet the protocols we were required to follow for much of the past 14 months,” said Christine Duffy, Carnival Cruise Line’s president.

This move comes quickly following similar announcements earlier this week from both Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. Those lines have also dropped vaccine requirements on many cruises beginning in September, marking a phasing out of the protocol across the industry’s biggest players.

With this change, it’s now safe to say that cruising following the pandemic is back to “normal.” While the onboard experience across cruise lines has been largely the same as before Covid hit for months, the hurdles of vaccine and testing requirements were still in place.

Now, those sailing without the shot will still require testing, but the majority of passengers will simply be able to arrive and sail just as before the 2020 pause.

Meanwhile, this change opens up cruising to potentially millions more passengers who have been barred from sailing while the vaccine rules were in place.

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