First Cruise Line Removes Testing for U.S. Homeports

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Virgin Voyages announced today that, following the ending of the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the cruise line would be ending its pre-cruise testing requirement for sailings from the U.S. as of July 27, 2022.

This is the first cruise line to discontinue pre-cruise COVID-19 testing from a U.S. homeport.

Testing to End

In a statement on the “Voyage Well” page of its website, Virgin Voyages has confirmed it will end pre-cruise COVID-19 testing.

“In response to the discontinuation of the CDC’s Voluntary Program for the Cruise Industry, we’re updating our policies,” the announcement reads.

“We’re removing the requirement for a COVID-19 test to board as of 7/24/22 (for Valiant Lady) and 7/27/22 (for Scarlet Lady).”

While the Virgin Voyages fleet is small – just the two vessels – this is a significant step for the cruise industry.

Valiant Lady is the cruise line’s youngest ship, having just embarked on her maiden voyage in March, and she is currently offering 7-night roundtrip Mediterranean sailings from Barcelona.

Virgin Voyages Valiant Lady Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Virgin Voyages

A number of cruise lines in Europe have already ended pre-cruise testing on selected voyages in line with local protocols, including Azamara Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Viking Cruises, so this move is not as stunning nor surprising.

Scarlet Lady is the ship that U.S. cruisers will want to watch, as that vessel – the flagship of the Virgin Voyages fleet – is currently offering 4- and 5-night itineraries from Miami, Florida.

Pre-cruise COVID-19 testing has been required by all cruise lines sailing from U.S. homeports since the cruise restart began in July 2021. Now that the CDC’s guidelines are no longer mandatory but only recommended, cruise lines can update their policies on an individual basis.

Other Protocols to Remain

While the end of the testing requirement is a strong step, Virgin Voyages is maintaining its other health and safety protocols.

“We want our Sailors to be reassured that we have the strongest protocols in place to keep our Sailors and Crew well — including vaccine requirements, special air filtration, reduced capacity, and rigorous cleaning,” the website reads.

Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady
Photo Credit: Eric Gilbert Creative / Shutterstock

All guests will still be required to fill out pre-cruise health questionnaires, as well as abide by all local regulations, including mask wearing if required.

Virgin Voyages is requiring 90% of passengers to be vaccinated, and 100% of the ships’ crew is vaccinated. Other onboard protocols include frequent cleaning and sanitizing, improved air filtration, and various contact-less interactions to better promote social distancing.

A Unique Cruise Line

Virgin Voyages is uniquely poised to be the first to eliminate pre-cruise testing, not only because of the small size of the fleet, but also because of the nature of the adults-only company.

Not only must all passengers be over the age of 18 (therefore making all passengers eligible for vaccination), but the line also has fewer onboard policies and activities that could contribute to the transmission of communicable diseases.

For example, none of the line’s vessels has a buffet or any self-serve eatery option, therefore eliminating the risk from shared serving utensils or crowded serving stations.

Virgin Voyages Open Deck
Photo Courtesy: Virgin Voyages

The cruise also already leverages a variety of contact-less technologies to eliminate lines and crowding, such as Virtual Queues for onboard activities. This permits guests to maintain distance without missing any experiences onboard.

Virgin Voyages also led the way with announcing its health and safety protocols when cruising first resumed, so it is no surprise that this edgy line is the first to eliminate pre-cruise testing.

Stay tuned to Cruise Hive for updates and announcements on which cruise lines may be next!

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