Update: On April 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its cruising guidelines to include the following: All cruise lines must form safety agreements with the ports where they hope to operate, cruise operators must routinely test their crew members for COVID-19 and trial voyages may begin 30 days after a cruise line obtains permission from the CDC. The CDC recommends passengers get a COVID-19 vaccine prior to cruising, but it is up to individual cruise lines to set their own rules regarding vaccination requirements at this time.
After more than a year stuck on dry land, cruise lovers may be itching to hit the high seas again on their favorite cruise lines. But with rules and regulations about cruising in flux, it can be hard to pinpoint when next you may be able to hop on board and sail away to paradise – and whether or not it is safe to do so.
At the end of October 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a conditional sailing order that remains in effect until Nov. 1, 2021 (pending further changes). The order states that cruise lines should take a phased approach when restarting service and must satisfy certain safety requirements to provide a healthy environment for crew members and travellers. In response, most major cruise lines have added new protocols on their ships with the aim of resuming select itineraries in the near future. Updates include, but are not limited to, face mask policies, daily temperature screenings and the introduction of onboard medical facilities designed for COVID-19 testing.
Still, deciding whether you want to embark on a voyage as soon as you can or wait it out a few more months (or years) is a personal choice. Before you prepare to set sail, be sure to discuss your health risks with your doctor, stay up to date on where Americans can travel and seek guidance from the CDC, the World Health Organization and other health and safety authorities. Read on to learn when popular river and ocean cruise lines plan to resume their voyages. (Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication and will be updated as cruising time frames and expert recommendations evolve.)
AmaWaterways: May 31, 2021
Once international river cruise line AmaWaterways resumes its voyages (planned for this spring), travellers can expect enhanced safety measures at all points of their journeys. First, cruisers will be sent a mandatory health questionnaire to fill out prior to their river cruise.
Upon arrival, guests’ temperatures will be checked, and their suitcase handles will be sanitized. During each cruise, face masks will be required in public spaces, social distancing and frequent hand cleaning will be enforced, and shore excursions will be capped at a small number of participants.
American Cruise Lines: Cruising as of March 13, 2021
With routes ranging from the Mississippi River to scenic spots across New England, river cruise company American Cruise Lines began sailing again at 75% capacity in mid-March 2021. The cruise line requires guests to present a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within four days of embarkation, and travellers may need to be fully vaccinated before setting sail, depending on the region. Face masks are required in group settings onboard, and the company emphasizes that its heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems do not recirculate air between guest rooms or public areas.
American Queen Steamboat Company: April 10, 2021
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, American Queen Steamboat Company has launched its SafeCruise initiative. Once the river cruise line begins welcoming guests again, travellers can expect precautions like pre-cruise health screenings, temperature checks, reduced capacities, social distancing in public areas and elevators, enhanced cleaning protocols using hospital-grade disinfectants, mandatory face masks and medical staff on board.
For cruises embarking on July 1, 2021, or later, travellers (and all shipboard crew members and non-shipboard employees) will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine prior to their vacation. To see American Queen Steamboat Company’s full safety plan, visit the line’s website.
Carnival Cruise Line: July 1, 2021
Carnival Cruise Line plans to resume its cruises in July but is still working to finalize its COVID-19 protocols for future voyages. Still, the cruise line has confirmed that passengers looking to set sail on a Carnival ship should expect standard guidelines backed by the CDC and other experts, including the use of face masks, social distancing and testing before boarding.
Celebrity Cruises: July 3, 2021
Celebrity Cruises aims to begin sailing again out of U.S. ports this July, though a handful of voyages outside of the U.S. are scheduled to resume in June. The cruise line will require all travelers 18 and older to be fully vaccinated 14 days prior to embarkation. Guests will also need to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result acquired within 72 hours of the sail date. Celebrity’s panel of 11 health experts – including doctors and scientists – advised the line to implement policies like temperature screenings, enhanced ventilation on board, sanitation stations and more.
Costa Cruises: May 28, 2021 (North America passengers)
Although Costa Cruises has received the green light to start accepting Italian citizens on its ships, North American travellers’ restart dates range from late May to late December, depending on the vessel. Once sailings resume, guests can expect coronavirus safety procedures like reduced occupancy, mandatory mask policies in public spaces, health screenings before boarding, new air filters and well-equipped medical centers on board. Learn more on Costa Cruises’ website.
Crystal Cruises: July 3, 2021
On Crystal Cruises’ two ships – Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony – future travellers will be protected during all parts of their journey by the Crystal Clean+ program. The initiative includes COVID-19 testing and temperature screenings during check-in, numerous health questionnaires, face mask policies, social distancing and reduced capacities, high-tech cleaning methods, hospital-grade disinfectants, new fresh-air ventilation systems, contactless dining protocols and more. Travellers must also be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to cruising.
Cunard Line: September 10, 2021
Select Cunard Line cruises are scheduled to restart in September 2021. On Cunard sailings, travellers can expect policies like pre-boarding COVID-19 testing and screenings, upgraded cleaning efforts in public areas and guest rooms, hand-sanitizer stations dispersed throughout each ship, improved air filtration on board, and up-to-date guidelines on face masks and social distancing. At this time, Cunard Line cannot welcome guests with certain medical conditions – such as those requiring dialysis or supplementary oxygen – or who have been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 within 14 days of embarkation.
Disney Cruise Line: July 2, 2021
Disney Cruise Line aims to resume select voyages in early July. While Disney has not yet released its full list of policies, the cruise company plans to comply with CDC guidance by requiring COVID-19 testing and health screenings, denying boarding to passengers exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, mandating the use of face masks and more. On top of that, itineraries that last longer than seven days have been cancelled until further notice.
Holland America Line: July 1, 2021
Holland America Line plans to restart some of its sailings this summer, though the line’s popular Alaska itineraries may be impacted through 2021 due to Canada’s suspension of sailings until February 2022. Once the line’s other voyages restart, guests can plan on coronavirus safety protocols like pre-embarkation health screenings (and ongoing checks throughout each cruise), rapid response and contact tracing on board should cases arise, extensive sanitation of all ship areas, social distancing through reduced capacities and staggered event times, mandatory face masks, additional medical staff on each ship and more.
MSC Cruises: May 2021
Although MSC Cruises is currently allowing residents of select European countries on its Mediterranean routes, most voyages will not resume until at least early May 2021. Cruisers who embark on MSC’s upcoming voyages will experience policies like pre-boarding health checks (and denied entry for anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms), daily temperature screenings, adapted buffets (staff will serve guests), reduced capacities for activities and theaters, increased medical personnel on board and more. Masks will be required in public areas when social distancing is not possible.
Norwegian Cruise Line: July 25, 2021
Norwegian Cruise Line is preparing to welcome guests again in late July on select ships. In early April 2021, Norwegian Cruise Line announced it will require passengers to be fully vaccinated two weeks prior to embarking on a voyage. Crew members must also be fully vaccinated before sailing. Earlier this spring, Norwegian stopped accepting bookings for its 2021 Alaska cruising season, but it has not yet cancelled these itineraries.
All ships now feature medical-grade air filters, and public and private spaces will be frequently sanitized with powerful disinfectants.
Travellers should expect contactless temperature checks at multiple points during their cruise, including before boarding, before dining, before activities in public areas and before getting off of the ship at ports of call. Social distancing will be encouraged on board, and a bevy of medical supplies will be available should any guests fall ill during their vacation.
Oceania Cruises: August 1, 2021
In partnership with its Healthy Sail Panel, Oceania Cruises has prepared its ships with the aim of sailing again in August. The cruise line will require all guests and crew members to be fully immunized against COVID-19 at least two weeks before traveling. Other coronavirus safety protocols include continuous sanitization of all public and private spaces, upgraded hospital-grade air filtration systems, a dedicated health officer, touchless food service, health screenings, social distancing measures and more.
Princess Cruises: July 1, 2021
Travellers looking to embark on a Princess Cruises voyage once sailings resume will be met by elements of the line’s CruiseHealth initiative.
Highlights include health screenings at embarkation, touch-free boarding, enhanced ventilation systems, consistent sanitization of all areas and contactless mobile ordering for poolside food and drinks.
Physical distancing will be enforced, and guests will be required to wear masks in areas where distancing is difficult. Additionally, staff in the onboard medical center are trained to handle any arising cases of COVID-19.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises: August 4, 2021
Luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises is working with a panel of experts with the aim of safely sailing again in August.
To board any Regent Seven Seas Cruises vessel, all crew members and vacationers must be fully vaccinated 14 days before their sail dates. Additionally, all guests must take a COVID-19 antigen test during the boarding process and receive a negative result to continue on their cruise.
Protocols include enhanced cleaning policies, upgraded air filtration systems, health screenings prior to embarkation, touch-free food service, reduced capacities on board, social distancing measures and more. Each ship will have a dedicated public health officer to oversee that all expectations are met.
Royal Caribbean International: July 2, 2021
With the exception of a ship sailing through Asia in the spring, Royal Caribbean International plans to resume select sailings in July. At this time, travellers must show proof that they have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to the sale date. The line’s Healthy Sail Panel will deploy new safety protocols, including mandatory face masks and enhanced cleaning policies, once ships set sail again. If a predetermined number of COVID-19 cases is recorded on a future voyage, the cruise will conclude immediately. Visit Royal Caribbean’s website for its full list of updates.
Seabourn Cruise Line: July 3, 2021
Seabourn Cruise Line’s almost all-balcony accommodations and smaller ship sizes (between 450 and 600 people per vessel) are convenient perks amid the coronavirus pandemic. As Seabourn works to resume its sailings this summer, the line has put policies like embarkation health screenings, staggered boarding times, mandatory masks (when social distancing is impossible), upgraded ventilation and contact tracing into place. Additionally, all travellers must be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before cruising in order to board. To see all of Seabourn’s health and safety guidelines, visit its website.
Silversea Cruises: June 5, 2021
Travellers looking to embark on a Silversea Cruises voyage may be able to do so this June. Once the line resumes its sailings, guests must provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken between 24 hours and five days pre-cruise to board. Masks will be required in indoor public areas, sanitation efforts will be enhanced throughout the ships and physical distancing will be encouraged. Upcoming Silversea itineraries only include low-risk ports of call, and medical staff will be on each ship to help any passengers who feel ill. All guests and crew members must be fully vaccinated before travelling. To learn more, visit Silversea Cruises’ website.
Virgin Voyages: September 22, 2021
Brand-new cruise line Virgin Voyages was originally set to debut its first ship, the Scarlet Lady, in April 2020. Due to the pandemic, the ship’s inaugural sailing is now scheduled for September 2021, while the line’s second vessel, the Valiant Lady, aims to hit the high seas later in the fall. A third Virgin Voyages ship, the Resilient Lady, will debut in summer 2022. Onboard, travellers can expect precautions like temperature checks and health screenings, staggered boarding, touchless technologies and lower occupancies – all part of the line’s Voyage Well initiative. Virgin’s ships were not designed with any buffet-style eateries, which may help reduce transmission risks while dining. Additionally, Virgin Voyages’ guests and crew members must all be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before sailing.
Windstar Cruises: June 16, 2021
Windstar Cruises, which operates small-scale ships accommodating between 150 and 350 guests each, plans to resume its cruises in June. Windstar will require all crew and vacationers to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 at least two weeks before travelling. The company will also administer an antigen test for each passenger during the boarding process; the result must come back negative in order to cruise. For an extra level of protection, Windstar is installing hospital-grade air filters on all yachts, using electrostatic sprayers to disinfect all surfaces onboard and more.