More cruise lines are getting on board with new policies that end the requirement for a pre-embarkation COVID-19 test.
Following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ending its COVID-19 program for cruise ships on July 18, the Jimmy Buffett-inspired Margaritaville at Sea, on July 23, ended its pre-boarding test requirement for all vaccinated guests.
Unvaccinated guests are still required to present a negative antigen COVID-19 test prior to embarkation, and though it isn’t required, vaccinated guests are still encouraged to get tested prior to boarding.
The cruise line will still require crew members to be fully vaccinated.
“With the CDC’s removal of the pre-embarkation testing requirement, we are hopeful and pleased that the travel and cruising industries are sailing towards a new normal,” said CEO Oneil Khosa in a statement. “Margaritaville at Sea’s vaccinated guests will no longer be required to undergo testing prior to boarding, making it quicker and easier than ever to escape to paradise.”
Margaritaville at Sea launched earlier this year with an inaugural voyage from the Port of Palm Beach to Grand Bahama Island.
The license-to-chill brand promises guests a "floating island vacation" that brings together the brand's hospitality and resort experiences.
Margaritaville at Sea joins a growing number of other cruise lines that are also dropping pre-embarkation testing rules.
Richard Branson's cruise line Virgin Voyages recently announced that it will “mirror the rest of the travel industry in removing pre-embarkation testing for sailings from July 24 on European Union sailings, and from July 27 on U.S. sailings.”
The new rules will go into effect on July 24 for sailings on the Valiant Lady and go into effect on July 27 for sailings on the Scarlet Lady, according to a notice posted on the company’s website.
Most travellers must still be be vaccinated to board, but the brand said it would open up to 10 per cent of its capacity to unvaccinated cruisers.
The relaxed policy also comes "in response to the discontinuation of the CDC's Voluntary Program for the Cruise Industry," Virgin Voyages said in a statement.
Azamara, also, will drop its COVID-19 embarkation testing requirement starting today (July 25).
And Norwegian Cruise Line has eliminated testing for vaccinated travellers for all cruises sailing from any port except in the United States, Canada, or Piraeus, Greece.
A new chapter
The U.S. CDC ending its pandemic-era cruise program means the agency will no longer display the number of COVID-19 cases on a ship online.
"CDC has worked closely with the cruise industry, state, territorial, and local health authorities, and federal and seaport partners to provide a safer and healthier environment for cruise passengers and crew," the CDC’s website reads. "Cruise ships have access to guidance and tools to manage their own COVID-19 mitigation programs."
The health agency added that "while cruising poses some risk of COVID-19 transmission, the CDC will continue to publish guidance to help cruise ships continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for crew, passengers, and communities going forward."
The move to end the program comes months after the CDC allowed its Conditional Sail Order to expire, a policy that was introduced when the agency lifted a previous No Sail Order in October 2020.