Port of San Francisco Adds Testing Requirement for Unvaccinated Passengers

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Cruisers arriving back at the Port of San Francisco will now be required to take a COVID-19 test before debarking their ship. This new guidance is from the San Francisco Department of Public Health and is stricter than other local requirements, but it only applies to passengers who are not fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 Tests Now Required at Debarkation

According to a statement provided to Cruise Hive from the Port of San Francisco:

“Due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, effective January 7, the Department of Public Health is now requiring all vessels that disembark passengers at the Port of San Francisco to test all passengers that are not up-to-date on vaccination before coming ashore.”

This new guidance is part of a series of memoranda of agreement (MOA) between the Department of Public Health, the Port of San Francisco, and individual cruise lines for all ships calling in San Francisco. The MOAs establish protocols for all ships that embark, disembark, and transit through San Francisco.

San Francisco Cruise Terminal
Photo Credit: Pung / Shutterstock

The update is in response to recent cases detected aboard the Ruby Princess. When the ship returned to San Francisco on January 6, 2022, required random testing of 25% of passengers detected 12 positive cases. According to the statement, “all individuals are either asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms. No passenger has required medical attention and no hospitalization is needed.”

At that time, the ship was returning from a 10-night cruise to Mexico. In accordance with the established MOU, Princess Cruises provided transportation and quarantine accommodations for those passengers.

Who Must Be Tested

The new guidance requires that all passengers who are not fully updated on COVID-19 vaccinations must be tested before debarkation. For this purpose, the San Francisco Department of Health defines fully vaccinated as having completed the full initial vaccination series as well as a booster if the individual is eligible for one.

“This requirement is stricter than federal and state guidelines and is intended to protect the people of San Francisco,” the statement explains.

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in California for several weeks due to the Omicron variant. According to the state’s data, San Francisco county has more than 80,000 confirmed cases, with a 9.2% increase in positive cases reported recently.

Cruising From San Francisco

At the moment, only Princess Cruises is offering San Francisco as a home port for cruises, and at least 95% of the passengers and crew onboard each sailing are required to be fully vaccinated. The cruise line is allowing only limited exemptions for passengers without vaccinations to set sail, and exceptions must be approved prior to embarkation day.

Cruise Ship at San Francisco Cruise Terminal
Photo Credit: Loren_Zecena / Shutterstock

The Crown-class Ruby Princess is the only cruise ship currently sailing from San Francisco. The ship first entered service in 2008, and has a capacity for 3,080 passengers when fully booked. Ruby Princess was the fourth Princess Cruises ship to restart operations after the industry-wide pandemic shutdown, setting sail from San Francisco on October 31, 2021.

According to the Port of San Francisco’s website, in a typical year the port hosts more than 100 cruise ship calls and handles more than 400,000 passengers.

Other cruise lines are making ports of call at San Francisco in the upcoming weeks, including Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Holland America Line, and Celebrity Cruises.

Carnival Cruise Line also homeports ships from San Francisco, but no Carnival vessels are currently sailing from the port. Carnival Miracle is scheduled to begin sailing from San Francisco in April 2022.

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