Following similar moves last week by sister cruise lines Cunard Line, P&O Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, and Princess Cruises, Holland America Line has announced a dramatic relaxation of its pre-cruise health and safety protocols, dropping pre-cruise testing for vaccinated passengers on a majority of sailings.
All these cruise lines are under the same corporate umbrella, Carnival Corporation & plc, so the similarity in their updated policies and the timing of their announcements is not surprising.
Most Testing Eliminated
As of September 6, 2022, vaccinated guests booked for Holland America Line cruises will no longer need to present a negative pre-cruise COVID-19 test in order to set sail. The new guidelines, while not quite universal, do make cruising much less complicated for most travelers.
“Our guests have been excited to return to cruising, and these changes will make it easier for more guests to explore the world in a safe and enjoyable environment,” said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line. “The new, simplified protocols recognize the evolving nature of COVID-19 while still ensuring we protect the health of our guests, team members and the communities we visit.”
Until now, all guests age 2 and up were required to present a negative test result before sailing. The new guidelines, however, are not universal, and prospective guests should be careful to note whether or not their individual sailings still require a pre-cruise test.
Where Are Tests Still Required?
While this is welcome news indeed for test-weary travelers and those eagerly awaiting a greater return to normalcy in cruising, there are still itineraries that require pre-cruise testing.
At the moment, all cruises that visit Australia, Canada, and Greece must still have passengers test before setting sail.
In an abundance of caution, Holland America Line is also still requiring pre-cruise tests for all passengers on sailings of 16 nights or longer, as well as on select itineraries with more unique routes, such as Panama Canal transits or transatlantic crossings. As these cruises are generally longer than 16 nights already, guests booked on such extraordinary sailings must still take pre-cruise tests.
Unvaccinated Permitted to Sail
In another update to the health and safety protocols, guests who are unable to be vaccinated due to medical, religious, or other personal reasons may once again cruise with Holland America Line on sailings shorter than 16 nights.
Prior to this update, all guests age 12 and older were required to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before sailing.
Unvaccinated guests, however, will still need to present a negative antigen or PCR test result before embarkation. Tests may be taken up to 72 hours before sailing.
Why So Many Changes?
It has been a tidal wave of changes from multiple cruise lines in recent days, as different cruise lines have been dropping testing and vaccination requirements ever since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ended the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships in mid-July – less than one month ago.
Ending that program, coupled with the CDC further loosening guidelines for testing, quarantine, social distancing, and contact tracing on August 11, has permitted cruise lines to review their own health and safety protocols and make updates based on their own needs.
While all cruise lines strive to protect the health and safety of their passengers, crew members, and port communities, these are also businesses that need to safeguard their bottom line as well.
With so much frustration having built up since the industry first shut down in March 2020, removing further barriers imposed by testing and vaccination mandates opens up cruises to passengers who may not have been able or willing to set sail in more than 28 months.
All cruise passengers, however, should stay in close contact with their cruise line about updates to protocols as their sailing date approaches, as further changes, even reinstituting mandates, may occur with little advance notice if deemed necessary.
Furthermore, cruise lines must remain in compliance with guidelines from the ports they visit, and should there be regional changes, protocols will be updated once again.