Vaccines and cruising have been a hot-button issue as cruise lines try to return to sailing from the United States. For months cruise lines have been hesitant to make a blanket policy one way or another — either requiring vaccines for all passengers or stating that they won’t be a requirement.
But slowly cruise lines have announced that at least some cruises will require passengers be vaccinated when they sail. Royal Caribbean says upcoming trips from Israel, Bermuda, and The Bahamas will be fully-vaccinated. Norwegian Cruise Lines announced cruises from Greece, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic this summer and fall will also require a vaccination.
However, before you get the family ready to take a trip aboard one of the Norwegian cruises that’s announced a vaccine requirement, you should know that this rule applies to everyone — even children.
According to Norwegian 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.”
You might notice that the requirement doesn’t make an exception for kids, even though they are not currently eligible for the COVID vaccine in the United States.
That’s for good reason. Norwegian says clearly that kids have the same vaccination rules as adults who are currently eligible to receive the shot:
The safety and security of our guests, crew and communities we visit is our number one priority. In order to provide the safest cruise experience possible, all guests and crew will need to be fully vaccinated for all sailings with embarkation dates prior to October 31, 2021. Therefore, minors who have not yet been eligible to be vaccinated will not be permitted to sail on these voyages. Minors who have been fully vaccinated are welcome to sail.
We look forward to the day when we can safely welcome these guests back onboard our ships, when the public health environment allows us to modify our protocols accordingly. We will continue to constantly evaluate our health and safety protocols with our expert Council and will follow the latest science to determine requirements for all future sailings embarking beginning in November 2021. We commit to keeping guests apprised of any policy changes as far in advance as possible of their scheduled vacation.
Adults-Only Cruises For Now?
Compared to other cruise lines that have announced vaccination requirements for some cruises, this rule from NCL is more strict. Royal Caribbean, for example, says passengers under 18 need only a negative COVID test before boarding its vaccinated cruises.
In practice, this rule from NCL seems to turn the cruise line into almost adults-only for the time being, at least for Americans looking to cruise. Currently Moderna’s vaccine is only approved in the United States for those 18 years or older. Pfizer’s vaccine is approved for use by those 16 or older.
That said, by the time the cruise line begins to sail again (currently scheduled for summer), it’s possible that shots will be available for younger age groups.
Even so, for families with kids this requirement does put a hurdle on planning a cruise.
One thing we did notice, however, is that not every trip before October 31 makes it clear vaccines are required. That’s despite the message on NCL’s “Sail Safe” page saying vaccine rules apply to all cruises.
For instance, a September cruise from Montego Bay, Jamaica has a clear disclaimer about the requirement, saying “Proof of vaccine required for all guests of any age on this cruise.”:
A September cruise from Miami that departs a day later, however, does not have this disclaimer:
Cruisers will no doubt hear more from Norwegian Cruise Line surrounding vaccines and their requirements in the future. For the time being, however, it seems smart to wait to book if you plan to sail with kids not currently eligible for vaccination.