Just when different cruise lines are changing onboard health protocols and tightening health and safety requirements, Norwegian Cruise Line has another change on the horizon for its upcoming sailings.
Beginning January 17, 2022, embarking passengers will be required to arrange their own COVID-19 tests prior to sailing, a distinct change from the policy NCL has had up to this point, when the cruise line furnished tests at the terminal for all passengers.
UPDATE: Norwegian Cruise Line has now changed its mind on no longer offering pre-cruise terminal testing due to COVID concerns. The latest update is here.
Passengers to Pay for Own Tests
In a letter sent to passengers and travel agents, Norwegian Cruise Line outlined the change in its policy.
“At the time of check-in, guests will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test administered by a verified third party at least two days prior to boarding for cruises originating in a U.S. port and three days prior for voyages departing from a non-U.S. port. If you are unable to provide proof of a negative result at the time of embarkation, testing will be available at the terminal at your expense for $99.00 per person.”
Prior to this change, NCL was testing all passengers at the terminal for no additional charge.
Norwegian’s policy has also been less than clear about whether or not passengers were required to test in the days leading up to their cruise. Calls to customer service clarified that such pre-cruise testing had been advised and recommended, but the word “required” was not used. The cruise line’s website states that for cruises departing through January 16, 2022, only the test at the terminal – “administered and paid for by the cruise line” – is necessary.
Beginning with cruises embarking January 17, 2022, passengers will be required to make their own testing arrangements. Medically supervised at-home tests will be accepted.
This change can be an unwelcome surprise to booked guests who will now either need to make testing arrangements prior to their cruise or will need to pay $99 per person at the terminal. For a family of four, the additional $396 fee can be a blow to a cruise vacation budget.
While the letter detailing the change was sent out in mid-November, some passengers have noted that they have not received individual notification of the new requirement though they are booked on an upcoming cruise after January 17.
Additional testing requirements may also be required for passengers traveling to the embarkation port, depending on their point of origin and requirements for airlines and international trips. Furthermore, different ports of call may have additional testing requirements for cruise passengers.
Passengers should always check updated protocols and requirements in the days and weeks before they set sail to be sure they are able to comply. As pandemic conditions continue to evolve, new or changed requirements continue to be likely.
Cruise Lines Tightening Requirements
In the past few days, several cruise lines – including Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International – have also been tightening onboard health and safety protocols. Masking requirements have been reinstituted, and in the case of Norwegian Cruise Line, their “cruise mask-free” policy has been removed and masks are now required in indoor spaces and outdoors where social distancing can’t be maintained.
These changes are due to rising concerns about the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is rapidly spreading in many areas. At this time, there is still great uncertainty about this new variant’s dangers and how it may interact with existing vaccines.
It is not surprising that cruise lines are tightening health and safety protocols in an effort to minimize any risk of exposure, as severe outbreaks could crippling to the industry that only just begun gaining ground in its operational restart.