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.

As of now, cruises are still suspended in the United States, and it’s not clear exactly when they might return. 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. In other words, a return could be on the horizon.

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 could be the 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.

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. As well, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order that makes it against the law for a business to require a vaccine in the state.

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 said yet whether they will require a vaccine to cruise. In early April 2021, its parent company — Carnival Corporation — updated investors and answered questions regarding requiring the shot.

In that call, CEO Arnold Donald encouraged people to take the shot but also said, “We do not have a company or brand policies right now around vaccinations, and we’ll allow that to play out and line up with what makes the most sense.”

At this time, Carnival’s COVID-19 Protocols page makes no mention of vaccines. During a test booking we completed, there was also no mention of vaccination being required to sail.

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean has a mixed policy regarding vaccines, with some cruises requiring them while others do not. While cruises from the United States have not specifically been mentioned regarding the requirement, it seems likely to us that passengers will need to be inoculated before boarding.

According to an FAQ on the cruise line’s website, Royal Caribbean says:

“At this time, we are requiring guests 18 years and older to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, along with all crew members onboard.”

However, this doesn’t appear to apply to all cruises. Currently the cruise line offers “fully vaccinated” cruises from Israel, The Bahamas, Bermuda, and Cyprus, requiring all adults to be vaccinated. Kids under 18 can sail with a negative test before boarding. Booking one of these cruises give a notice that a vaccine is required:

Royal Caribbean Vaccine requirement

In our search, trips scheduled from Asia and from the United States, however, showed no requirement notice at this time.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Lines requires all passengers to be vaccinated to sail. 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.”

Celebrity

Celebrity is requiring all guests 18 years and older to be vaccinated to cruise. 

According to the company’s website:

“At this time, we are requiring guests 18 years and older to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Each guest must submit proof of full vaccination no later than boarding day, in the form of the original vaccination record document issued by either (1) the country’s health authority that administered the vaccination (e.g., U.S. CDC’s Vaccination Record Card) or (2) the guest’s medical provider that administered the vaccination.”

The second dose must be completed at least two weeks before sailing for a guest to be considered fully 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 according to its Health and Safety page.

In regards to vaccinations, the cruise line says the following on its website:

“Guests are advised to consult their National Health Service prior to the cruise for information regarding recommended vaccinations. MSC Cruises declines all responsibility for guests who do not adhere to the recommendations on the prevention of infectious diseases or do not have the appropriate vaccinations to enter a particular port during the cruise.”

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.

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.

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”?

It appears even on fully-vaccinated trips, you can expect more changes for the time being. For instance, Disney is requiring face coverings for all guests 11 years and older, including those that have been vaccinated.

As well, testing before boarding, lower capacity, and social distancing are also going to be in place. In other words, for right now a vaccine doesn’t mean a complete return to normal.

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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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