Norwegian Cruise Line Adjusts Testing, Vaccination Protocols
Norwegian Cruise Line and its sister lines, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, have adjusted the required pre-cruise testing and vaccination protocols for all cruises, with the new guidelines taking effect September 3, 2022.
This opens up cruising options to a wider range of travelers with different health needs, and helps simplify pre-cruise preparation for all guests.
Testing to End, Unvaccinated Guests Welcome
As of September 3, Norwegian Cruise Line will only require a pre-cruise test for travelers ages 12 and older who are unvaccinated. All vaccinated passengers, of any age, will no longer need to present a negative test result for embarkation.
Unvaccinated passengers ages 12 and older must still present a medically supervised negative PCR or antigen test taken no more than 72 hours before sailing.
This change also allows unvaccinated guests to set sail on a Norwegian, Oceania, or Regent Seven Seas cruise, which has been prohibited previously, regardless of testing protocols.
Furthermore, it should be noted that from September 3, guests under the age of 12 will not be required to be tested, regardless of their vaccination status. Only guests ages 12 and older who have not been fully vaccinated must be tested.
"Our long-awaited revisions to our testing and vaccination requirements bring us closer in line with the rest of society, which has learned to adapt and live with COVID-19, and makes it simpler and easier for our loyal guests to cruise," said Frank Del Rio, President and Chief Executive Officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.
"Health and safety is our top priority and we will continue to modify our robust SailSAFE program as the public health environment evolves."
Vaccinated guests must still present proof of vaccination at embarkation, and should meet the definition of "fully vaccinated" at the cruise homeport, including the types of vaccines accepted, the number of doses, and any required boosters to be considered fully vaccinated.
For United States homeports, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still maintains the fully vaccinated definition as including a complete initial series of COVID-19 vaccines, but no booster shot is required.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd. does recommend – though not require – that guests are up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations, including boosters, and test at their convenience prior to cruising.
Cruise Length Not a Factor
Guests comparing the pre-cruise testing and vaccination protocols between different cruise lines should note that this reduction in testing for Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises applies to voyages of any length, both short and long sailings.
Other cruise lines that have already adjusted testing protocols have largely restricted the test-free voyages to shorter sailingswith longer voyages still requiring tests for even vaccinated passengers.
"The relaxation of protocols coupled with continued easing of travel restrictions and the reopening to cruise in more ports around the globe are meaningfully positive for our business as it reduces friction, expands the addressable cruise market, brings variety to itineraries, and provides additional catalysts on the road to recovery," Del Rio said.
Regional Protocols Still Apply
This news will be welcome for many travelers, as it simplifies the pre-cruise preparation and paperwork for all sailings, and guests no longer need to sort through as much confusion about which tests are required for which passengers on which cruises.
All changes are subject to local regulations, however, and health and safety protocols may continue to be adjusted as necessary for different destinations.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holding, Ltd.'s press release announcing these changes specifically states, “Requirements may differ for guests traveling on voyages departing from or visiting destinations with specific local regulations, including but not limited to Canada, Greece, and Bermuda.”
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As has been true since cruise travel restarted just over a year ago, passengers should stay in close contact with their cruise line to be updated on any protocol or requirement changes that apply to their cruise, as such changes can be made at the last minute and may impact any sailing.