Do I need a vaccine to cruise? That’s been one of the biggest questions in a return to sailing.
And the good news for many people? The restrictions requiring vaccines are dropping quickly.
As the United States has opened up again following the worst of the pandemic, many people have returned to a 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 given the vaccines, a milder variant, and prior cases, the amount of serious illness seems lower. As a result, people are able to get back to the things they love and cruises have had a successful restart with millions heading back to sea.
In fact, apart from vaccines and testing, the onboard experience has returned to exactly what it was before the pandemic. Now, a recent shift has led to cruise lines removing those hurdles as well.
In This Article...
Dropping CDC Programs Means an Easing of Vaccine Rules
Up until July 2022, cruise lines followed the CDC’s voluntary program for Covid protocols on cruise ships. However, the health agency ended that program, giving cruise lines more leeway on how to implement their own rules around things like testing and vaccines.
As the world has learned to live alongside the virus, restrictions have eased around the world and on cruise ships. This includes dropping testing requirements for vaccinated passengers and allowing unvaccinated passengers to sail again in many cases (but they almost always need to be tested before sailing).
Even so, some cruise lines still have vaccine requirements for some cruises. Since cruise lines sail to multiple countries, they have to adhere to the rules set out by those places. So a line may let unvaccinated sail on some cruises, but not others. That makes it easier to simply have the vaccine and be allowed to sail no matter where the ship goes.
As well, you should know that if there are vaccine requirements, they are usually relaxed for children under 12 years old. It’s common across cruise lines to allow passengers under 12 to sail freely without needing the shot. So if you are sailing with a smaller child that you don’t want to be vaccinated, then that’s normally not an issue.
Still, each cruise line has made their own policies, which can make it more difficult for passengers to understand what’s required. To help you out, we’ve highlighted all the latest announced policies from major cruise lines below.
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 Cruise Line Vaccine Policy
Carnival will now allow all passengers -- including those who are unvaccinated -- to sail freely as of September 6, 2022. This simplifies the requirements to sail.
First and foremost, unvaccinated passengers of any age are allowed to sail the cruise line without having to first apply for an exemption as was previously required. However, before they cruise, those without the shot will need to have a negative test taken within three days of cruising (passengers under five years are exempt from testing).
There are a few exceptions. Cruises from Australia -- or those 16 nights or longer -- do still require a passenger be vaccinated to sail.
Vaccinated passengers don't need to test unless visiting Canada, Bermuda, Greece or Australia and on trips of 16 nights or longer.
Royal Caribbean Vaccine Policy
As of September 5, 2022, Royal Caribbean will no longer require passengers to be vaccinated to sail if departing from ports in California, Louisiana, and Texas. As well, no vaccine will be required if sailing from Europe. No special request or exemption is need to sail unvaccinated.
Cruises from Florida and other ports of departure will still require the shot for those 12 and older in order to sail for the time being. According to Royal Caribbean's website, the cruise line is "working with local governments in the Eastern Caribbean to align on vaccination requirements for more itineraries."
As well, even if not required, Royal Caribbean asks that you still bring proof of vaccination to your cruise.
Norwegian Cruise Line Vaccine Policy
Starting September 3, 2022, Norwegian Cruise Line no longer requires passengers to be vaccinated to sail.
After that date, all passengers under 12 years and younger will be free to sail without needing a vaccine or requiring a test before boarding. In other words, it will be just as it was before the pandemic for kids
Passengers over 12 years old will no longer require a Covid test to cruise if they are vaccinated. If unvaccinated, passengers are now able to still cruise but must have a negative test taking within 72 hours of embarkation.
Note that there are still vaccine/testing requirements from ports including Greece, Canada, and Bermuda.
Princess Vaccine Policy
Princess, as part of Carnival Corporation, offers a similar policy as Carnival Cruise Line where passengers no longer have to be vaccinated on most cruises.
Starting in September, Princess allows passengers to sail without the shot. You simply need to be tested before sailing.
"Starting Sept. 6, vaccinated guests sailing on voyages of less than 16 days with the exception of Panama Canal transits, trans-ocean and other special itineraries will no longer have to test before boarding and only need to upload proof of vaccination while getting OceanReady®. Unvaccinated guests, or those who do not provide proof of vaccination, on those itineraries will self-test within three days of sailing and upload proof of a negative test on the MedallionClass® app before boarding."
Celebrity Vaccine Policy
Celebrity has made a vaccine change beginning September 5, 2022 that allows unvaccinated passengers to cruise. However, it doesn't cover every sailing from every port.
The cruise line says that passengers, regardless of vaccination status, can sail from the U.K. and Europe, as well as from Los Angeles.
For departures from other homeports, expect to need to be vaccinated to sail (for ages 12 and older). This includes Florida at this time, although that could change soon. Trips to Bermuda and Canada still require vaccination at this time.
MSC Cruises Vaccine Policy
MSC is a popular choice for passengers looking for relatively affordable fares. The cruise line has a limited -- but growing -- presence in the U.S., with cruises from Florida and New York.
MSC's policy toward vaccination for sailing from the United States is that while kids under 12 years old are allowed to sail unvaccinated, those older than that must have the shot.
However, the cruise line did recently relax testing requirements for vaccinated passengers, with a reference that vaccine rules could also drop sometime in the future:
"MSC Cruises will continue to monitor pandemic conditions and port requirements outside of the U.S., with a goal to relax testing and vaccination protocols to open cruising to all guests, while prioritizing the health and safety of its guests, crew and destinations."
Disney Cruise Line Vaccine Policy
Disney is well-known as being a family-friendly cruise line, meaning lots of kids sail. You might think that would mean relaxed restrictions regarding vaccines for kids. Instead, it's the opposite.
While most cruise lines are dropping vaccine requirements to sail, Disney -- known for being a family focused line -- is only loosening them for smaller kids. The cruise line did require kids aged 5 and older to be vaccinated in order to sail, but has moved to requiring vaccines for only 12 years and up:
"Beginning September 2, 2022, for sailings departing US and Canadian ports, Disney Cruise Line will require Guests ages 12 and older to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at the time of sailing, as defined by the CDC. In consideration of CDC guidance, Disney Cruise Line highly recommends that Guests ages 11 and younger be fully vaccinated before sailing."
There is no exemption policy mentioned for adults.
Virgin Voyages Vaccine Policy
Until recently, Virgin Voyages had a simple policy. As an adults-only cruise line, Virgin required everyone on the ship to be vaccinated. Now that policy has changed to 90% of passengers, allowing 10% of those onboard to sail unvaccinated with an exemption.
Passengers can call the cruise line at 954-488-2955 to ask about sailing without having the shot. There is no mention of needing a reason (e.g. medical or religious) to be eligible for an exemption. Unvaccinated passengers will need to test before boarding.
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 shots they accept.
If you don't have the shot, then cruise lines are easing rules in that you don't have to be vaccinated to sail in many cases.
How Do I Prove That I'm Vaccinated if it's Required?
In many cases even though passengers can now sail without the shot, proof is still needed if you are vaccinated. That's because passengers with the vaccine often don't need to test before sailing, while those without it still need to test negative before sailing.
The easiest way to show you've been vaccinated is to hang on to the white CDC vaccination card you should have received when you got the 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.
Some cruise lines will accept a digital record of your dose or an image of your shot card. To be sure, however, all cruise lines will accept the paper card, making it the easiest way to prove you've had the vaccine.
Can I Get the Shot the Day Before I Sail? Or Just One Dose?
No. Cruise lines make it clear that passengers must be fully vaccinated. That means having both doses of a two-dose shot 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 & Unvaccinated Passengers, Is Everything Back to "Normal"?
Even before the dropping of vaccine requirements, the passenger experience on the ship was largely back to normal. Now that vaccine requirements are dropping for many lines, you can say that cruising is now like it was before the pandemic.
Want to have a drink at the bar and chat up your fellow passengers? You can do that. Enjoy dinner, shows, the casino, ports of call, and more. While much has changed behind the scenes, the experience on the ship is largely identical to what it was before.