Royal Caribbean has not followed its rivals yet (and passengers may not be happy).
Covid has not actually gone away. The disease has seemingly become less deadly as vaccines and treatments have become more readily available, but the pandemic hasn’t ended, it has just moved into a new stage where people worry less about getting sick and take fewer precautions.
With hospitals having room to treat the most severe cases, covid has become a little closer to the flu — at least in how we treat it as a society. That means that most areas of American life have dropped any pretense of being worried about covid.
Social distancing has become a thing of the past as have mask requirements and mandatory testing. The travel industry held onto those rules longer than other parts of society, but hotels, airlines, theme parks, and casinos have all dropped all covid rules and precautions (aside from recommendations as to what to do if you feel sick).
The cruise industry has been very slow to fully drop covid rules. At first, that was because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) monitored onboard positive cases and set standards for testing, masks, and vaccination. That changed in July when the CDC decided to drop its oversight of the cruise lines.
That led to every major cruise line making protocol changes but they all did so at different speeds. Now, Virgin Voyages, which has been at the head of the pack when it comes to dropping requirements, has made another major move which Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report has followed (at least partially) but Royal Caribbean International (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report has not.
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Virgin, Carnival Drop Covid Rules
Virgin Voyages, which requires passengers (sailors in the cruise line’s parlance) to be at least 18 years old. That already eliminated some protocols because the cruise line did not have to consider having different covid-related rules for kids under 12.
Now, the Richard Branson-founded cruise line has dropped all covid testing and vaccine requirements. Previously, Virgin Voyages had required that vaccinated passengers show their vaccine card while unvaccinated passengers had to present a negative test.
“We have lifted all vaccine and testing requirements,” Virgin shares at the top of its homepage.
The cruise line further explains the move when you click into the site.
In keeping in line with the rest of the travel industry, we have removed all vaccine and testing requirements beginning 10/30/22 on Valiant Lady and 10/28/22 on Scarlet Lady.
While all Sailors no longer require COVID-19 testing prior to their embarkation date, should a Sailor exhibit signs or symptoms of an illness during check-in (or during their voyage), Virgin Voyages reserves the right to test that Sailor and their traveling companion(s) for COVID-19 at the terminal (or on board), and will cover the testing fees.
Carnival Cruise Line has adopted a similar policy on its namesake brand and its Holland America line. It has dropped vaccination requirements for cruises 15 nights or less. It has also dropped testing requirements for unvaccinated passengers on cruises less than 16 nights.
Royal Caribbean Keeps (Some) Covid Rules
While Virgin Voyages and Carnival (at least on some of its brands) have essentially dropped all covid rules, Royal Caribbean has kept some testing requirements in place. The cruise line did drop its vaccine requirements but unvaccinated passengers still have to test
Vaccinated guests do not need to take a test for sailings of 9 nights or fewer. On sailings of 10 nights or longer, fully vaccinated guests age 12 and older will need to bring a negative test result for a COVID-19 test within 3 days before boarding day.
Guests age 12 and up who are not vaccinated have 3 days to take a test before their cruise, regardless the duration of the cruise.
All cruise lines remain subject to any covid requirements set by the nations where they dock their ships. That means that Carnival, Virgin, or Royal Caribbean could have to add testing or vaccine requirements on certain sailings.