Carnival Reveals $50 Fee for Virus Test if Unvaccinated (Waived July & August)

The incentive to get your shot just got even greater.

In a letter to guests seeking an exemption aboard upcoming vaccinated cruises, Carnival said unvaccinated passengers will require testing at embarkation and debarkation, which will cost $50 per person. For now, the cruise line is waiving the fee on its first cruises that return in July and August.

Just days ago, Carnival announced that it would return to sailing July 3 aboard Carnival Vista from the Port of Galveston. The cruise line also made another major announcement — the first cruises would sail with at least 95% of passengers vaccinated.

Since then Carnival has added more ships to the fleet’s return this summer, including its newest ship Mardi Gras. The cruise line says it plans to also operate these trips with vaccinated passengers.

Given the cruise line’s reputation as a family-friendly line, the vaccination rules mean that families with smaller kids not yet eligible for the shot can’t readily sail. But Carnival did say the line will open up a limited number of slots to passengers who are ineligible for the shot, while keeping the ship still at the 95%+ vaccination level.

Guests seeking an exemption must certify they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Sailing with a child that isn’t of age eligible to receive the vaccine. 
  • Cannot safely take the vaccine due to a current medical condition or medical circumstance.
  • Taking the vaccine will “conflict with my sincerely held religious beliefs, observances, or practices.”

Passengers on the vaccinated sailings received a letter that allows them to sign up to show they are interested in trying to claim one of these few spots.

Now the cruise line is sending out a “COVID-19 Vaccination Exemption Request Form” to interested passengers that outlines exactly what unvaccinated guests will experience on these vaccinated cruises.

After reading, it’s clear that the cruise will be much different if someone is sailing without a shot compared to sailing vaccinated, and it could be more expensive in the future to sail unvaccinated.

In other words, there’s a strong incentive to sail with the vaccine.

Big Differences When Sailing Without the Shot on Vaccinated Cruises

The first major difference between sailing with the shot and without is testing.

Carnival says unvaccinated passengers must submit the results of a negative PCR virus test taken within 72 hours of boarding. In addition, another test will occur both when boarding and getting off the ship. (Debarkation testing is only required on cruises longer than four days.)

According to the form, “The cost of testing and administration is US$50, per person, which we will waive for guests sailing in July and August.”

In addition, unvaccinated passengers will have mask rules in place.

“Although generally not required, it is recommended that unvaccinated guests wear masks on board.” The cruise line does say unvaccinated passengers will have to wear masks in the terminal, on water shuttles, and on shore excursions. On the ship, they must be worn in the kid’s areas, arcade, medical center, and the spa.

Finally, shore excursion options are limited. While the CDC allows vaccinated passengers to go ashore as they please, the rules aren’t so generous if unvaccinated. Carnival says that only cruise line-approved tours are allowed unless in a private port or “port-controlled areas.”

You can take a look at the rules in full below. We’ve highlighted the fee for testing:

Carnival fee for virus testing

Will the Fee Be in Place Later in the Year?

While Carnival says they are waiving the $50 testing fee for the vaccinated cruises in July and August, could it be in place later in the year as more ships return, possibly without the vaccination requirement?

Florida, for example, has a law that forbids a business from requiring proof of vaccination from customers. That’s taken to apply to cruise lines and means fully-vaccinated cruises might not be possible from the state since no proof can be required.

Rival Royal Caribbean has said they won’t require the shot from Florida sailings, but any passenger who doesn’t have the shot or refuses to show proof will need to be tested at their own expense. (Royal Caribbean says kids ineligible for the shot won’t be charged for tests.)

The charge seems to show that Carnival may be heading down a similar path, although as of now the cruise line says several Florida cruises will require the shot. This includes Mardi Gras sailing from Port Canaveral and Horizon from Miami.

If these announced rules stick around, an unvaccinated couple traveling on a week-long cruise would require six total tests — two within 72 hours of boarding, two on the day of boarding, and two on the day of debarkation. Between those tests and the extra cost, it gives a strong incentive to sail with the shot if possible.

To be sure, Carnival has not said what the policy will be moving forward, and we’ve all seen how quickly the rules and protocols can change. Still, it bears watching.

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