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Thursday, December 8, 2022

All major cruise lines to allow unvaccinated travellers

By James Bikales

Disney Cruise Line will no longer require vaccinations on most of its voyages from October, the company announced on Tuesday, marking the final major cruise line to ease its vaccine requirement on most US sailings.

For voyages on the Disney Wish, Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy and Disney Wonder beginning on October 14, full vaccination is “highly recommended”, but not required, according to the cruise line’s website.

Unvaccinated travellers five and older must provide proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within two days of the sail date, either through an observed antigen test or a lab-based PCR test. Vaccinated travellers and children under five are not required to test.

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The same policy applies to Disney Magic sailings beginning on November 7. The Magic will be visiting ports of call in Canada and Bermuda in October, which have their own health requirements, though Canada is lifting all entry restrictions on October 1.

The family-focused cruise line dropped its vaccination requirement for kids between the ages of five and 11, in August. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its announcement on Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ended its Covid programme for cruises in July. Since then, all major cruise lines serving the US – including Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess and MSC Cruises – have dropped their vaccine requirements for all but a few voyages, according to their websites.

Carousel Lounge is the first cruise venue built specifically for the needs of circus performers. Picture: MSC Cruises

Depending on the company, vaccinations may be required for sailings that last more than 16 days or visit ports of call with additional requirements, such as Bermuda and Greece.

Costa Cruises, the Italian carrier that operates some Caribbean cruises, announced last week that it would permit unvaccinated passengers on-board, starting from October 8.

Anne Madison, a spokesperson for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), said “most countries, travel sectors, and other businesses” have eliminated testing and vaccination requirements as a larger share of the population has gotten vaccinated or recovered from coronavirus cases.

“CLIA and our member lines will continue to monitor health conditions on-board and employ health and safety protocols commensurate with those conditions,” Madison said. “CLIA and its cruise line members have and will continue to make science-driven and medically informed decisions.”

As of Tuesday, the only seagoing cruise line requiring vaccinations on US sailings was Cunard Line, a luxury British carrier operating three ships, including the only remaining ocean liner in service.

Cunard requires all adults to be vaccinated, including with a booster if more than 270 days have passed since their initial vaccination, and take a test before departure, according to its website.

Travel agents and cruise companies have seen a spike in bookings in recent weeks after vaccine requirements were lifted, though company executives said they expect that most passengers would be vaccinated.

The recovery is a boon for the industry after a 15-month shutdown, but Covid remains a concern, as experts have warned the close quarters of ships are particularly conducive to the virus’s spread.

The CDC continues to recommend being up to date with vaccines, including boosters, before cruise travel and to test no more than three days before departure.

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