It’s been a week in which two significant moves demonstrate life may soon get back to normality for cruise passengers.
The usually tough Centre for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) in the US announced it was ending its COVID-19 program and would instead leave the management of the pandemic up to cruise ship operators.
And Azamara became one of the first cruise lines to scrap COVID-19 pre-embarkation testing requirements starting July 25, except where ports themselves required it.
The small-ship line will still ask for proof of vaccination prior to embarkation, and the line recommends that all guests departing from any port get tested at their leisure.
However, those results will not be required to board an Azamara vessel.
“The easing of our testing policy marks a step in the right direction towards a return to normalcy for the travel and cruising industry,” said Carol Cabezas, president of Azamara.
“Cruising is one of the safest ways to travel, and our existing health and safety protocols onboard will ensure peace of mind for our guests and crew as we move forward.”
So what can you expect when you board a cruise ship in Australia? Most lines are standing by their pre-test requirements.
P&O Cruises has a Healthy Cruising program where they work with federal and state agencies to ensure the health and safety of guests on board.
The cruise line still requires guests to fill out a health declaration, which includes confirming that they do not have any COVID symptoms. They will also need to take a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) within 24 hours or a PCR within 72 hours of boarding.
P&O will not complete any testing before departure. You will need to arrange the testing yourself before you arrive.
If you test positive within ten days of your departure, you will not be able to board the cruise ship and should let your travel agent or P&O know so that they can reschedule or cancel your booking. Anyone else on the booking will also be prevented from boarding.
Before boarding, you will need to use the VeriFLY app, which is available on Apple and Android devices to confirm your negative COVID status along with proof of your vaccination and health declaration. After filling out the information a green tick will appear and you will need to present that at the cruise terminal.
If you’re travelling on back-to-back cruises you will need to disembark the first cruise. You will receive a complimentary RAT and will be able to board once you present your negative test. If it is positive then you will not be permitted to board and will receive a Future Cruise Credit. Any close contacts will receive the same.
Princess Cruises has different protocols depending on which region you are cruising in. In Australia, you must be fully vaccinated and take a Rapid Antigen or PCR test within 24 hours or 72 hours respectively.
Children under the age of two years who are not vaccinated are also required to take a Rapid Antigen or PCR test before boarding.
Royal Caribbean’s Healthy Sail Centre provides information on the latest COVID protocols. At present, all guests two and over must take a COVID test before sailing. The crew are also tested in line with CDC guidelines.
Other cruise lines such as Norwegian, Carnival and Celebrity Cruises all require that guests aged two and over present a negative COVID test before departure. These lines do not have guidelines specifically for Australia, so the international requirements apply.