CDC Shortens COVID Testing Time Period for Vaccinated Travelers Going on a Cruise

Carnival, Princess, Disney, and more cruise lines have changed their testing policies to comply.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends travelers going on a cruise get tested for COVID-19 within two days before boarding — a shorter time period than previously advised.

Vaccinated passengers will need to get a COVID-19 PCR or rapid antigen test within two days of boarding a ship or get tested on the day of embarkation. The updated guidance comes amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant and months after the CDC said cruise lines didn't have to test fully vaccinated passengers before embarking on a trip or upon returning to port.

Unvaccinated passengers are required to get a PCR test within three days of boarding a ship, a PCR or antigen test on the day of embarkation, and a PCR or antigen test before disembarking.

In addition to updating its testing guidance, the CDC asked cruise lines to reconsider allowing fully-vaccinated passengers to go maskless, which the agency had initially said was acceptable in May.

The agency has also warned older travelers and those with underlying conditions against going on a cruise, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Cruise ships
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Several cruise lines changed their policies following the updated guidance.

Starting Sept. 13, Carnival Cruise Line, which is operating a series of "vaccinated cruises," will require fully-vaccinated guests to get tested within two days of their cruise, according to the company. Last month, the company re-implemented an indoor mask mandate and requires unvaccinated guests who are granted a capacity-controlled exception on Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and Maryland-based ships to provide a doctor's note.

Princess Cruises, which is only sailing with fully-vaccinated guests, will require passengers to get tested within two days of embarkation for all cruises starting Sept. 19, according to the company. Guests can get a PCR or antigen test.

MSC Cruises, which mandates all guests 12 and older be fully vaccinated for U.S. departures, will require all vaccinated guests to show a negative PCR or antigen test taken within two days of their departure starting Sept. 13.

Disney Cruise Line will require all its guests, regardless of their vaccination status, to take a COVID-19 test at the terminal before boarding starting Sept. 13.

And Royal Caribbean, which also requires guests 12 and older be fully vaccinated when sailing from the company's U.S. homeports, updated its testing policy for fully-vaccinated guests, shortened the test timing to two days starting Sept. 13.

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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