Princess Cruises has joined other major cruise lines by implementing the revised testing window from three days to two days as part of its health protocols to keep everyone protected as the phased-in resumption continues in the U.S.
The update comes in the form of pre-cruise testing for all guests. While most cruise lines allowed for 72 hours before joining the ship to be tested, Princess Cruises and several other cruise lines have issued a mandate that requires guests to be tested two days before departure. The change comes after the CDC’s protocols for pre-cruise testing were altered on August 27.
The measures that the cruise line is introducing for the ships sailing this fall are valid until the end of the year and for the ships sailing from and in the United States. The cruise line has issued separate policies for the two vessels sailing from the United Kingdom.
The most striking measure the cruise line has decided to implement is the testing regime for all guests boarding one of the Princess Cruise ships through October 31. Princess requires that all guests provide a negative, medically-observed test (PCR or antigen) taken within two days of their embarkation on all Princess sailings.
Princess Cruises is not alone though, in the last few days, Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, MSC Cruises, and Carnival Cruise Line have all changed their policies. The Princess website states the following:
“The 2-day period is 2 days before your cruise’s departure. The 2-day timeframe provides you with more flexibility than a 48-hour timeframe. By using the 2-day window, your test validity does not depend on the time of your embarkation or the time of the day that your test was administered. For example, if sailing on Sunday, the test may be taken on Friday and Saturday, and as late as Sunday, if you are guaranteed to receive your results in time for check-in.”
Many guests have been skeptical about the new policies from Princess Cruises and the other cruise lines; although, the cruise lines themselves have their hands tied behind their backs as the requirement is one from the CDC. Rules the cruise lines have said they will be following voluntarily, as the Conditional Sail Order is now a recommendation instead of a requirement just for the state of Florida. The CDC’s website now states the following:
Fully vaccinated passengers must present a SARS-CoV-2 negative viral test result at the time of embarkation. The specimen must be taken no more than two days before boarding. Fully vaccinated passengers may use a self-test. In place of testing pre-embarkation day, cruise ship operators may test fully vaccinated passengers on the day of embarkation.
When Carnival Cruise Line introduced the 3-day testing requirements, the cruise line received a fair share of criticism on the timeline they set up. As guests have even less time to be tested in a usually pretty stressful time before going on vacation, the reactions have been less than stellar. Because of this, Princess Cruises has thought of a solution:
“We understand that it may be difficult for some of our guests to find testing that can provide results within a 2-day turnaround. Accordingly, for guests who did not receive their test results within 2 days prior to their embarkation, we are working to set up mobile testing sites near our embarkation ports to conduct COVID-19 testing the day before, or day of, your cruise departure.”
“The company providing the testing will charge a per-person fee (to be established; please check back on this page). Providers will not accept insurance, but you will be provided a receipt should you wish to submit the cost to your insurance carrier. Please consider this as a back-up alternative should you not be able to make arrangements prior to leaving home.”
Masks Will Be Required in More Areas
The measures are on top of several other guidelines that Princess Cruises has introduced in the last weeks and months. Besides requiring all guests to be fully vaccinated through the end of the year, and the testing requirements that have been introduced, the cruise line also asks guests to wear masks once again.
Masks are encouraged in all public spaces indoors but are required in places like elevators, shops, casinos, and other designated areas. The only exception is when guests are eating or drinking. When large crowds gather, masks must also be worn.
While we saw a lessening of the rules following the restart of cruises in July of this year, the last month has made for another turnaround in this area. Is this the end of those rule changes? Likely not, the fear amongst the cruise lines for a repeat of a no-sail order means the operators will do whatever it takes to stay afloat. Even if that does anger some guests.