Japan to Welcome Cruise Ships Back after More than 2 Years — What to Know

“We will create an environment that allows tourists to enjoy their cruise without worry while in Japan,” the country's Transport and Tourism Minister said.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama port

Charly Triballeau /Getty Images

Japan will once again welcome cruise ships back to the country for the first time since the pandemic began.

The country, which captured the world’s attention at the start of the pandemic with the outbreak of COVID-19 on the Diamond Princess ship, will now look to lift a more than 2 1/2-year ban on international cruise ships, The Associated Press reported. It was not immediately clear exactly when the ban would officially lift, but a Japanese ship sailing from Yokohama in December will be among the first.

“Japan is now ready to start receiving international cruise ships again,” Transport and Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito told The AP. “We will create an environment that allows tourists to enjoy their cruise without worry while in Japan.”

When cruising does resume, Japan will require all crew to have three COVID-19 vaccine shots and will require most passengers to have at least two shots, the AP reported. The country will also have guidelines in place for thorough ventilation, distancing, and disinfecting of common areas.

The ban was initially put in place following the death of several passengers on the Diamond Princess ship after both crew and passengers were forced to quarantine on board for two weeks. In total, more than 700 people became infected.

The dropping of the cruise ban comes on the heels of the country reopening to independent travelers in October. All visitors must be either fully vaccinated with a booster shot, or show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of their departure flight, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Japan isn’t the first country to welcome back cruise ships. In April, Australia dropped its ban on cruise ships and in August, New Zealand did the same.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its 'No Sail' order in October 2020, and then officially ended its pandemic-era program for cruise ships over this past summer.

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