In a move that we thought could happen, Royal Caribbean is now requiring COVID tests before boarding for all passengers sailing on five-night (or longer) cruises from the United States.
There is now a notice that outlines the new details on the Royal Caribbean website. It says all guests — even those who are vaccinated — will have to show a negative test before boarding unless they are under two years old. The test must be taken within three days of sailing. As well, the cost of the test is under the passenger’s responsibility.
Take a look:
For Sailings 5 Nights Or Longer: Important Update For Guests
All guests age 2 and older — regardless of vaccination status — will need to take a COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) with an accredited test provider, such as a drugstore chain or diagnostic lab, no more than 3 days before arriving at the terminal for embarkation. Guests will need to show their negative test result upon arriving at the terminal. The results can be printed out, or can be presented on your phone, such as the email result from your test provider. Costs associated with this test are the guests’ responsibility. This requirement is subject to change as we evaluate public health recommendations, and booked guests will be advised of the latest requirements before sailing.
Previously, the cruise line had carved out an exception for passengers sailing with the shot. In that case, a guest didn’t have to be tested before boarding. Instead, only unvaccinated guests required testing.
The change comes as virus cases rise sharply in the United States. Since bottoming out with a 7-day average of around 12,000 cases per day in late June, just a month later cases have increased six-fold to 72,000 per day.
At the same time, CDC tracking of COVID on cruise ships shows that cases continue to find their way onboard. Of the 64 ships the health agency tracks with a color-coded scale, one-third (21 ships) have either yellow or orange status, indicating possible cases in recent days. And of the 14 Royal Caribbean ships on the list, eight have yellow or orange designation.
While the new move might be seen as a hindrance by some, we think it is definitely a smart change. In fact, we expect other cruise lines to follow suit. With the news of breakthrough cases among those with the vaccine becoming commonplace, universal testing — no matter vaccination status — offers another layer of protection in being able to cruise safely.
And while vaccinated passengers will now require a test before boarding, it doesn’t appear the full testing regimen seen for unvaccinated passengers will be in place. Those sailing without the vaccine from Florida, for example, require a pre-cruise test, another test at embarkation, a test in the middle of the cruise (if six nights or longer) and one prior to disembarking. That’s four tests for a week-long cruise.
As well, the tests may not be permanent. Royal Caribbean says that “this requirement is subject to change as we evaluate public health recommendations,” so it’s possible that if cases fall, the rules could eventually ease.