CDC: Distancing & Masks NOT Required on Vaccinated Cruises

The benefits of sailing a fully-vaccinated cruise continue to grow as the CDC releases more updates to its Operations Manual for passenger sailings.


This manual outlines what cruise lines are required and recommended to do onboard ships in order to keep passengers and crew healthy. It covers everything from mask usage to testing to even HVAC systems.

When first published, these guidelines made little differentiation between vaccinated passengers and unvaccinated passengers. For instance, even if you had the shot you were originally required to still wear a mask outdoors by the pool.

In recent weeks, however, the CDC has made significant changes to the manual when it comes to sailing vaccinated cruises. Mask rules have eased, vaccinated passengers can venture into port on their own (and not part of an approved group), and they also don’t have to be tested before boarding if the cruise line decides not to do so.

Now the benefits are getting even greater. Notably, fully-vaccinated cruises no longer have to enforce distancing on the ship and masks can be completely optional if cruise lines want to do so.

Vaccines Largely Take Cruises Back to “Normal”

Since the health crisis started, distancing and masks have been the two major tools to reduce the spread of the virus. Now, the CDC says they no longer have to be used in certain situations.

Specifically, if a ship sails with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers, they can now designate areas available only to vaccinated passengers and crew where both masks and social distancing are not required. The CDC mentions areas like bars, casinos, spas, dining areas and more.

For example, a cruise ship could designate a dining room for only vaccinated guests where the atmosphere can now be like before the pandemic.

But if 95% of passengers and crew are vaccinated on a cruise, then cruise lines no longer have to apply distancing or mask rules at all. While they are recommended, the health agency says they will not be required:

New CDC rules show ships with 95% vaccinated rates no longer have to “wear a mask or maintain physical distance in any areas.”

In other words, two of the biggest changes that promised to make cruising very different for the enjoyment of passengers have reverted back to what they were before the crisis. But again, right now this is only if the ship is 95% vaccinated.

Rules Still in Place for Mixed Sailings

What is clear is that at least for now, these rules don’t apply to ships sailing with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers.

If sailing without the shot, stringent requirements are still in place. For instance, physical distancing rules are still required around the ship, masks are required in many areas (though not outdoors) and testing is still required before boarding the ship.

Take a look at just some of the distancing rules:

CDC distance rules on a cruise ship
The requirements for distancing are still in place for unvaccinated sailings.

Now, it could be that these rules continue to ease as time goes on, more of the U.S. population is vaccinated, and cruise ships show they can sail safely. Already the CDC has updated its Operations Manual three times in the past two weeks.

For the time being, however, if you want an experience that’s the closest to life before the health crisis, then it’s obvious that sailing a vaccinated cruise is the best way to get that.

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