Do I Need a Vaccine to Cruise? Policies for Major Cruise Lines

Do I need a vaccine to cruise? That’s been one of the biggest questions in a return to sailing.

Vaccine vial

As the United States begins to open up while vaccine doses roll out rapidly, many people are looking to get back to a more normal way of life. That includes things like visiting restaurants or movie theaters, going to a sporting event, and of course, travel.

The good news is that the hundreds of millions of shots given so far seem to be doing a job at keeping case counts in America subdued. As a result, cruises are re-starting this summer, barring some unforeseen spike in cases.

However, we all know that cruising isn’t likely to just go back to exactly what it was before the pandemic. There will be testing, better air filtration, contract tracing, and more.

Perhaps the biggest change will be vaccines. They’ve been called “game changers” by cruise executives and are key to being able to sail again. 

But not everyone is willing to take the shot. Others won’t take it for health reasons, and then there are children, who are currently not eligible to receive the dose. Even Florida — the biggest state for cruising — won’t allow businesses to require proof of vaccination from customers.

As of right now, there is no blanket policy one way or another across all cruise lines regarding vaccine requirements.

Instead, cruise lines have made their own policies, which can make it more difficult for passengers to understand what’s required. Some lines require the dose, some do not. Even within a cruise line, some trips require vaccination and others plan to allow anyone to sail.

In other words, this is still an ongoing situation, and the requirements are likely to see changes in the weeks and months ahead.

To help you out, we’ve highlighted all the latest announced policies below. By far the best thing you can do is simply get the shot if possible. That way if your cruise line does require vaccination later on, you’ll already be covered and ready to set sail.

Note: Vaccine policies can change quickly. We’ve highlighted the latest policies as of the publication date, but your cruise line will be the final source on what’s required for your specific sailing.

Carnival

Carnival Cruise Line has not made a fleetwide announcement for vaccines, but will require the shot on at least some early cruises.

The cruise line announced new Alaskan sailings for the summer that require a vaccine to sail. All guests must be at least 14 days past their final dose to set sail on these cruises. The same rules apply to July cruises from Texas aboard Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze.

Carnival says they will let a small number of guests ineligible for the vaccine sail, but still need to meet a requirement of having 95% of passengers vaccinated.

Other routes haven't made the requirements known. Given Carnival's focus as a family-friendly line, it's tough to imagine it will sail many ships that require vaccines when many children aren't eligible for the shot. 

You can follow the latest vaccine requirements on Carnival's COVID-19 Protocols page.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has a mixed policy regarding vaccines, with some cruises requiring them while others do not.

Basically, in the early days of cruising's return most ships sailing outside of Florida will require the shot if a person is eligible. Trips sailing from Florida will not, but passengers not showing proof of vaccination will need to pay for a COVID test before boarding (unless under 12 years old).

  1. The following ships require everyone 12+ years to be vaccinated:
    Adventure of the Seas (Nassau)
    Anthem of the Seas (Southampton)
    Jewel of the Seas (Cyprus)
    Serenade of the Seas (Seattle)
    Ovation of the Seas (Seattle)
    Independence of the Seas (Galveston)
    Harmony of the Seas (Barcelona)
    Oasis of the Seas (Bayonne, New Jersey)
  2. The following ships won't require vaccines:
    Freedom of the Seas (Miami)
    Odyssey of the Seas (Port Everglades)
    Allure of the Seas (Port Canaveral)
    Symphony of the Seas (Miami)
    Mariner of the Seas (Port Canaveral)

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Lines requires all passengers to be vaccinated to sail at this time. This includes both adults and children. According to the cruise line's "Sail Safe" program:

"All guests and crew must be fully vaccinated, at least 2 weeks prior to departure, in order to board. Guest vaccination requirements are currently for all sailings embarking through October 31, 2021– we will follow the science to make determinations on requirements for all other future sailings."

Notably, NCL makes it explicit that kids are welcome to sail if vaccinated, but they can't sail unvaccinated on sailings before October 31.

Princess

Princess cruise ship in Cozumel

Princess, as part of Carnival Corporation, hasn't come out with a blanket policy regarding inoculation. For instance, the cruise line shows no mention of vaccines on their "Cruise Health" section of their website, which lays out the changes aboard the ship.

That said, the cruise line is planning trips from the United Kingdom this summer that require all guests -- including those under 18 -- be vaccinated in order to sail. According to the company's website, apart from the U.K. sailings, "all other Princess Cruises holidays currently on sale do not require guests to be vaccinated."

Princess also announced new Alaskan sailings for the summer and along with them a vaccine requirement. All guests must be at least 14 days past their final dose to set sail on these cruises.

Celebrity

Celebrity is requiring all guests 16 years and older to be vaccinated to cruise right now, and 12 years and older as of August 1, 2021. 

According to the company's website:

"All guests 16 years and older must be fully vaccinated with all COVID-19 vaccine doses administered at least 14 days prior to sailing.  As of August 1, 2021, all guests age 12 and older must be fully vaccinated. All UK guests sailing on Celebrity Silhouette 18 years and older must be fully vaccinated. Crew onboard will be vaccinated."

MSC Cruises

MSC Seaside in port

MSC, with a large presence in Europe, has sailed successfully for several months even before vaccines were available. Right now the cruise line does not show any vaccine requirement to sail from the United States according to its Health and Safety page. But the page does say more information is coming soon.

MSC also specifically says that cruises in the U.K. this summer are open to all guests, regardless of vaccination status.

Disney Cruise Line

It's still not clear when Disney Cruise Line will sail again from the United States. However, this summer Disney Dream will sail short cruises from the United Kingdom for U.K. residents. On these cruises, all adults 18 and older must be vaccinated. Those under the age benchmark will still need a negative test to sail.

For trips from the United States, it's still not clear if Disney will require vaccines when they return to sailing but signs point to not requiring them, since the family cruise line would have difficulty sailing with everyone fully inoculated. The cruise line already has a ship scheduled for a simulated voyage, implying it plans to sail with both vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers. 

Virgin Voyages

Virgin Voyages has yet to make its official debut, but has already made it clear that it will do things a little differently than most cruise lines. This includes having all food be free on the ship (along with non-alcoholic drinks), gratuities and wi-fi included, and being adults-only.

Virgin has also said that it will require vaccines for all passengers and crew before they can sail. This means it must be at least two weeks between your last shot and when you board. Passengers already booked can receive a refund if they choose not to vaccinate.

Which Vaccines Are Accepted to Cruise?

There are a number of vaccines available around the world. While each cruise line might accept different ones, the major vaccines -- Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca -- all seem to have wide acceptance. If you have received one of these shots, then you should be good to go. However, your cruise line will have more details about which specific shot they require.

How Do I Prove That I'm Vaccinated?

It's not clear just yet exactly how each cruise line will document proof of vaccination. However, at this time the safest bet seems to be the small white CDC vaccination card you received with your shot. We suggest keeping the original in a safe place and also making a copy (both digital and physical) so that you can always have a version should something happen to the original.

Can I Get the Shot the Day Before I Sail? Or Just One Dose?

No. Cruise lines requiring vaccines make it clear that passengers must be fully vaccinated. That means having both doses of a two-dose shot at least 7 days (and more often, 14 days) before embarking on the ship. A single shot of the Johnson & Johnson dose is ok, but still requires receiving it well in advance of sailing.

In other words, this is not something you want to put off until the last minute.

If Cruises Sail With Vaccinated Passengers, Is Everything Else "Normal"?

In recent weeks the CDC has drastically changed its requirements if a ship sails a fully vaccinated cruise. This includes not requiring testing, masks, or social distancing if the cruise line allows it. In other words, the experience largely goes back to normal should the cruise line decide to do that.

For cruises with mixed passengers, then things like masks and distancing are still in play. For right now cruises with a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers should still see a number of restrictions.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I would have been great if you addressed the elephant in the room. When cruises resume in Florida, Gov Desantis has said there will be no vaccine checking allowed in the ports. I believe it is important to let people see the whole picture. He will likely have the law passed in a week or two, and already has an executive order. This law if passed will have a HUGE impact on cruising and many outcomes are possible. No cruising in the US. No Cruising in FL. No Vaccine checks in FL. No vaccine checks in the USA to be consistent. Also what about about FL suing the CDC and the federal gov’t to resume cruising.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ve added a bit about the executive order as it is important. At this point, it’s a fuzzy situation to be sure. The best that can be done is to explain where the cruise lines stand now.

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