Just one day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ended its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, Carnival Cruise Line and other lines under Carnival Corporation & plc have stated that there will be no immediate changes to the current health and safety protocols.
This means no immediate changes to vaccination requirements, vaccination exemption limits, or pre-cruise COVID-19 testing.
Carnival Cruise Brand Protocols to Continue
While the CDC has ended its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, cruise lines have already begun to state that there will be no immediate change to their ongoing protocols.
The websites and FAQ pages that have become popular with travelers to check protocols for their upcoming voyages have largely been updated with statements indicating there is no change at the moment to the existing guidelines.
On Carnival Cruise Line’s website, for example, the statement reads:
“Carnival welcomes the CDC’s decision to replace its current public health protocols with a new set of guidelines for health operations on cruise ships. We will review these once they’re available, but there are no immediate changes to Carnival’s COVID-19 protocols.”
The statement goes on to indicate that the online FAQ will continue to be updated with the most recent guidance, and travelers should be alert for pre-cruise communications about travel requirements.
Princess Cruises, another cruise line under Carnival Corporation & plc, has a similar statement on its CruiseHealth page, first acknowledging the news:
“The termination of the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters is welcome news for Princess and other cruise lines operating in the U.S. and we applaud the CDC’s decision as it places cruising on par with other travel, hospitality and entertainment industry operators.”
The statement continues with, “We will review these updated guidelines but please note there are no immediate changes to our operations. We will keep our guests and travel advisor partners apprised of any updates as information becomes available.”
Holland America Line, another cruise line in the Carnival family that operations a wide range of sailings from the United States, also states:
“We welcome the CDC’s decision to end its current program in favor of a set of guidelines for public health operations on cruise ships. This change is a testament to the effectiveness of protocols we put in place following the resumption of sailing, with cruising being among the safest forms of travel today.”
As with the other sister lines, Holland America Line’s statement indicates ongoing review but no quick changes to the line’s health and safety protocols:
“We will review the newest guidelines, but there are no immediate changes to current COVID-19 protocols for Holland America Line itineraries.”
Other lines in the Carnival Corporation family, including Seabourn, AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, and other lines, have no statements on their health and safety protocol pages or FAQ listings.
While these lines do occasionally sail from U.S. homeports, they primarily operate in other parts of the world and are not subject to the guidance of the CDC at this time.
While not part of the Carnival family, Royal Caribbean International also made a similar statement on its Healthy Sail Center website:
“We are waiting for these revised [CDC] recommendations, which we expect in the coming days. Upon review, we will adjust our current protocols and provide guidance to our guests. For now, our current protocols remain in effect for cruises departing U.S. homeports.”
Why Updates Take Time
The news that the CDC was immediately ending its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships was greeted with great joy by many cruise travelers, but it is likely to be some time before actual changes are made to protocols.
Cruise lines must consider not only the guidance of the CDC – recommendations that have not yet been made available – but also the requirements of the destinations they visit. If a cruise line fails to be in compliance with local protocols, ships may be denied docking privileges and turned away from ports of call.
Even as changes are planned, they may not be implemented all at once. It is more likely that cruise lines will make changes slowly and gradually, first taking smaller steps to verify that ongoing measures remain effective in mitigating the transmission of the disease and minimizing the risk of major outbreaks.
Some cruise lines, however, are poised for faster changes. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, dropped all pre-cruise testing requirements in early July, except in areas where such tests are locally required.
This puts the cruise line in position to more quickly end testing requirements for sailings from the U.S., though there is no indication thus far that such a change will be made quickly.
Azamara Cruises did announce an end to its pre-cruise testing effective July 25, unless destination ports require testing. Azamara is part of the Royal Caribbean Group and operates a fleet of just four ships, none of which are currently operating voyages from the United States.
What is sure is that once one major cruise line chooses to end cumbersome protocols, other lines will likely follow that lead quickly. Which line will be first?