Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced on July 6, 2022, that it would drop pre-cruise COVID-19 testing requirements for all its brands beginning August 1, 2022. The corporation oversees Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
The announcement does not impact all sailings, however. Cruise departures from all homeports in the United States, Canada, Greece, and Bermuda must still follow pre-cruise testing protocols. This is a huge step in returning cruising to pre-pandemic conditions and lightening travel restrictions, however, and is sure to be welcomed by cruise travelers.
No More Pre-Cruise Testing for Limited Embarkation Ports
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings stated, “it will no longer require guests to complete pre-cruise COVID-19 testing unless required by local regulations.”
The policy does not go into effect immediately, but instead begins on August 1, 2022. Furthermore, not all sailings are affected by the announcement.
“The pre-embarkation testing requirement will remain in place for guests currently traveling on voyages departing from destinations with local testing regulations, including but not limited to the U.S., Canada, Greece, and Bermuda,” the statement read.
This does mean, however, that Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises embarking at many European homeports will no longer require pre-cruise tests.
In August, Norwegian Cruise Line has voyages setting sail from Amsterdam, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Southampton, Reykjavik, Rome, Stockholm, and Venice.
Oceania Cruises has August departures from Reykjavik, Malta, Lisbon, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Stockholm, Paris, Rome, and Oslo, while Regent Seven Seas Cruises has August sailings leaving from Rome, Southampton, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Istanbul.
Normalcy Slowly Returning
This tremendous step will lighten the restrictions on travelers as it can be more difficult to find testing centers in the limited time frames just before a cruise, and at-home tests are not always an option.
“The relaxation of the testing policy is in line with the rest of the travel, leisure and hospitality industry worldwide as society continues to adapt and return to a state of normalcy,” the press statement read.
This does not mean that other health and safety protocols are being relaxed, however.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings “continues to strongly recommend all guests be up to date on vaccination protocols and test at their convenience prior to travel,” the statement read.
The company also clarified that its SailSAFE health and safety program will continue and be adapted as necessary, and each cruise brand will continue to adhere to all local restrictions and guidelines at ports of call.
Cruise travelers should note that these policies are always adaptable and may change at short notice should conditions require stricter protocols. Travelers booked on upcoming voyages should stay in close contact with their cruise line for updated information and changes as their sailing date approaches.
Will Other Testing Requirements End?
Will other cruise lines follow NCLH’s lead and also end pre-cruise testing? No other lines have yet made similar statements or taken steps to completely end testing, but several lines have made limited exceptions to testing requirements.
Viking Cruises was the first to end pre-cruise testing fleet-wide beginning June 10, 2022, but the exemption only applied to cruises in regions where testing was no longer a local requirement. Because of this, the exemption only had limited impact, but did position the Viking Cruises fleet to easily end testing as guidelines change in different areas.
P&O Cruises is currently testing limited exemptions with no pre-cruise tests required for sailings from Southampton on its Excellence-class Iona from June 25 through July 23. After that period, the testing requirement will be reinstated unless policies are changed further.
Holland America Line is also removing pre-cruise testing requirements for three sailings of Rotterdam from Amsterdam, with departure dates of July 10, July 17, and July 24, 2022. Like with P&O Cruises Iona, the pre-cruise testing will be reinstated after these three voyages.
With Norwegian Cruise Line Holding’s broad announcement applying to all cruises rather than just limited sailings on a single vessel, new announcements may be forthcoming.
Additional easing of pre-cruise testing will also largely depend on local guidelines and restrictions. For cruises departing from U.S. cruise ports, this means guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may need to change before cruise travelers will no longer need to test before setting sail.
At this time, there is no indication that the CDC will make change cruise travel testing requirements soon, but the organization is constantly reviewing new data and updating its guidelines.
Stay tuned to Cruise Hive for further announcements and breaking news as travel conditions evolve worldwide.