Since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in March 2020, cruise lines have been working hard to keep up with the various regulations and health requirements in an effort to keep their passengers safe. These protocols have included testing, vaccination, and capacity requirements for cruise lines. As the pandemic has continued and as vaccines have become more readily available, cruise lines have begun to relax their requirements for passengers boarding their vessels, including modifying COVID-19 protocols. Recently, several other cruise lines have dropped requirements that all passengers be tested for COVID-19 prior to boarding their vessels.
The most recent of these changes has come from Virgin Voyages, the adults only cruise line that debuted in 2021. Starting this month, Virgin Voyages is no longer requiring COVID-19 pre-cruise testing before boarding their vessels. Beginning with the July 24 sailing of the Valiant Lady and the July 27 sailing of the Scarlet Lady, Virgin Voyages passengers will no longer need to provide a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their ships.
Virgin Voyages was the first major cruise line to drop pre-cruise testing in the U.S. Until recently, Virgin was offering free COVID-19 testing for guests preparing to board their vessels at the port in Miami. However, Virgin will still require that 90 percent of passengers be vaccinated for each voyage. Only a limited number of unvaccinated guests, 10 percent, will be allowed to board. Additionally, 100 percent of the crew on Virgin cruise ships will be fully vaccinated.
Officials at Virgin stated that the reason for changing this requirement was due to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) dropping their COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships.
Another Miami-based cruise line, Azamara Cruises, has also dropped its pre-boarding COVID-19 testing requirements. However, a caveat has been issued with respect to this change. Testing will not be required in most ports unless the port is located in a country where testing is required. In those areas, a negative COVID-19 test will be required before boarding. Azamara, while not requiring the tests, still recommends that guests get tested before departing on their cruise. The cruise line will still continue to require guests to show proof of vaccination, however, prior to boarding.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Passengers preparing to board a Norwegian Cruise Line vessel will also not need to present a negative COVID-19 test, unless the country from which the boat is sailing requires it. This announcement was made recently by the company, and this change affects Norwegian Cruise Line vessels, as well as Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas vessels. This new policy is scheduled to go into effect on August 1, 2022. Norwegian stated that this change was intended to keep their own protocols in line with protocols for other forms of leisure travel, including businesses in the travel, leisure, and hospitality industries worldwide. The goal, according to the company, is to continue to adopt and return to a sense of normalcy.
Norwegian will continue to offer COVID-19 testing on most of their vessels, and they will continue to offer the opportunity for pre-cruise COVID-19 testing for all sailings departing from the U.S., Canada, Greece, and Bermuda. The cruise still strongly recommends that all guests be up to date on their vaccinations, including booster shots, prior to traveling, and they do recommend but do not require that passengers test before boarding their ships.
Margaritaville at Sea
As of July 23, 2022, Margaritaville at Sea, formerly known as Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, will also remove their pre-boarding testing requirements for all sailings for vaccinated guests only. Unvaccinated passengers will still be required to present a negative COVID-19 antigen test prior to boarding, at least one day before departure. While not required, the cruise line does still recommend that vaccinated guests complete a COVID-19 test prior to departure.
Holland America Lines
Another cruise line that has recently modified its requirements for pre-cruise testing is Holland America. The company has removed pre-cruise COVID-19 testing for selected sailings scheduled onboard the Rotterdam. Passengers sailing on the Rotterdam on July 10, July 17, and July 24 will not need to present a negative COVID-19 test before boarding. The voyages affected include vessels sailing from the Port of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, which are scheduled to sail to several destinations in Norway.
Holland America still requires passengers 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. They must have received their final dose of an approved vaccine no later than 14 days prior to embarkation. For guests who are 18 years and older, they will also need to have received a booster shot if their final dose of the original vaccination cycle is older than nine months from the last day of the cruise.
P&O Cruises, a cruise line owned by the Carnival Corporation and based out of the United Kingdom, has also removed their pre-boarding COVID-19 requirements for passengers boarding their Iona ship, so long as the guests are fully vaccinated. This change in testing requirements only applies for the Iona vessel and only applies to the sailings scheduled between June 25 to July 23, 2022. These voyages are scheduled to depart from Southampton and are scheduled to visit various ports of call off the Norwegian coast.
During this time period, any guests boarding the Iona who are fully vaccinated do not need to purchase or take a lateral flow or antigen test prior to boarding the ship.
P&O Cruises say they intend to stay updated on all health protocols for COVID-19. They intend to make adjustments as necessary as things evolve. If changes need to be made either relaxing or tightening these restrictions, the cruise line states they will make these modifications.
Viking Cruises also ended its pre-cruise COVID-19 testing requirements for all of its vessels fleetwide, as of June 10, 2022. Testing may still be required, however, depending on the eventual destination of the ship. If that country requires testing, passengers on board the ship will still need to be tested. As of June 10, certain ocean voyages on board the Viking Orion and expedition voyages on the Viking Octantis in both the United States and Canada will require a pre-sailing COVID-19 test. Additionally, the cruise line will still continue its vaccine mandate for both passengers and crew members onboard.
In December 2020, the CDC issued a warning to individuals considering going on a cruise vacation to avoid doing so due to the outbreak of the omicron variant. Because of the enclosed nature of a cruise trip, the COVID-19 virus can quickly spread between people on cruise ships, even if someone is fully vaccinated.
Recently, the CDC ended its COVID-19 program for cruise ships, which means the CDC will no longer report COVID-19 cases on cruise ships to the public. The end of this program was announced by the CDC on Monday, July 18, for all commercial cruise ships that sail through American waters.
Up until July, the CDC reported these statistics and identified which ships had higher numbers of cases through a color-coding system. Their system reported the number of positive COVID-19 cases amount crew who boarded their ships within a 14-day span.
Ships that were reported as “green” meant that they had a crew that tested negative and did not transfer from a high-risk or “red” ship. Additionally, land-based crew had been quarantined for two weeks before boarding the ship, and the crew submitted daily Enhanced Data Collection during COVID-19 forms to the CDC. The color yellow meant that the ships had test results available within one week. The ship’s status could be upgraded to green if all results were negative. If the ship failed to return their results within a week, the vessel was coded as red.
Orange ships tested unvaccinated crew weekly and vaccinated crew every two weeks. Red ships tested their crew on a weekly basis, regardless of vaccination status if passengers were onboard.
If a ship was marked as gray, this indicated that they had opted out of the CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, meaning the CDC was not able to report on the vessel’s health and safety protocols.
Now that the program has been retired by the CDC, the color-coding system has also been retired. At this point, the CDC says, the screening testing standards depend on the cruise line. The CDC stated that cruise lines will continue to have access to tools to manage their own COVID-19 prevention programs. Also, any person considering going on a cruise is recommended to review these standards and tools to make an informed decision regarding whether to go on a cruise vacation.
The CDC says they will continue to post safety guidance to help passengers and cruise ships. They also continue to consider cruising to be a higher risk activity when it comes to the transmission of COVID-19.
The CDC recommends that any traveler considering taking a cruise contact their cruise line directly to inquire about any outbreaks on the cruise line’s ships, as well as any COVID-19 protocols the cruise line may have. Caution should always be used while on cruise ships because the virus still continues to present itself and can spread quickly.
Aronfeld Trial Lawyers is a personal injury firm located in Miami, Florida since 1991. We have fought hard to hold cruise lines accountable when they put their profits ahead of passenger safety. We are available 24/7 and encourage you to contact us even if you are still on your cruise. The sooner we can begin our investigation and preservation of key evidence, such as the CCTV footage of your trip and fall, slip and fall, assault, or other type of injury the more likely we will be able to understand and prove how the incident occurred. Remember, the cruise lines have the most aggressive and well-funded defense lawyers in the world- protecting their profits. You need an experienced legal advocate in your corner who will fight to obtain the compensation you deserve for lost wages, medical expenses, transportation reimbursement, pain, and suffering. Call us today and speak with a cruise ship claims lawyer about your potential claim- toll free 1-866-597-4529, 305-441-0440, or by email. We are ready to help.