CDC Lifts COVID-19 Testing Requirement for Vaccinated Cruise Passengers

The new guidance applies to simulated and restricted sailings under the CDC's Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.

Cruise lines are not required to test fully vaccinated passengers before embarking on a trip or upon returning to port, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new guidance, the latest easing of coronavirus-era protocols for vaccinated travelers, applies to simulated and restricted sailings under the agency's Framework for Conditional Sailing Order. Travelers who got the jab as well as those who contracted COVID-19 within the past 90 days and recovered also don't need to get tested onboard if they come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 as long as they are asymptomatic.

Conversely, travelers who are not vaccinated have to get tested before boarding a ship on the day of embarkation, on the day they disembark, and between all back-to-back sailings. If they come into contact with a confirmed case of the virus, they also need to get tested and potentially quarantine for 14 days.

Carnival Cruise ship
Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

All passengers must get tested if they show signs or symptoms of COVID-19.

When it comes to testing, both PCR and rapid antigen tests are allowed, but PCR tests are preferred on cruise ships, according to the agency.

The new rules come just days after the CDC said vaccinated cruise passengers can go maskless in certain outdoor settings and explore ports on their own without having to book an excursion through the cruise line. It's also in line with the agency's recommendation that fully vaccinated people can safely go without masks in outdoor situations and many indoor situations.

The CDC has recommended both passengers and crew get vaccinated before sailing and has waived the need for test sailings for ships with all vaccinated people. Last month, the agency said fully vaccinated people could travel freely with low risk to themselves.

Several cruise lines have implemented vaccination policies for their guests and require tests before boarding or before disembarking.

Cruising in the United States remains on pause, but the CDC has said test sailings can begin soon with the goal of resuming in mid-summer.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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