Royal Caribbean International Updates Health Protocols

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Royal Caribbean International has updated its health and safety protocols for sailings from the United States, Barbados, and Puerto Rico. The guidelines, which have been developed in partnership with the company’s Healthy Sail Panel, will be in place through April 14, 2022

The cruise line has made few changes to the protocols already in place; therefore, testing mandates before the cruise, vaccination requirements, and mask use on the ship have seen no changes. But, Royal Caribbean did announce that it is looking at possible changes to several conditions. 

Royal Caribbean Sends Out Update on Health Protocols

The update on the health protocols for Royal Caribbean ships came in a letter sent to travel agents, which are now also available online. Royal Caribbean has made it a practice to provide periodic updates to its onboard health and safety measures over the last months. 

The protocols are effective today, February 2, through April 14, 2022. Although there have not been any significant changes to the onboard protocols that have been well-established over the last eight months, the cruise line has already made provisions for changes that it could implement soon.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships
Photo Credit: Melissa Mayntz

“Future protocols may require boosters, lowered vaccination ages, and changes to testing. While currently not required to sail, the US CDC has recommended COVID-19 vaccine booster doses for those eligible, prior to cruise travel. As a result, we strongly recommend guests getting boosted before their cruise.”

A possible booster shot requirement has been something on the mind of many past and present cruise passengers, but for now, the company has decided to keep it a recommendation and not a requirement. 

Neither has the age limit for the smallest of cruisers been adjusted; the vaccination mandate remains in place for guests 12 years and older. Younger guests ages 2-1, if fully vaccinated, can follow the guidelines for fully vaccinated guests.

So, What’s Changed?

Royal Caribbean has made little changes to its protocols that have already been in place for the past period. The company states that if changes are coming, they will be announced in due time.

“Due to the fluidity of this situation, our protocols are subject to change and we are committed to keeping you informed if they do. Whenever possible we will provide prior notice for any changes. Just the same, we’ll let you know if any requirements are reduced or eliminated.”

Although one cruise line is already changing its protocols to allow recovered guests onboard, Royal Caribbean remains steadfast with its requirements. A recovery certificate is not yet accepted to sail. Many people had hoped that the cruise line would be letting go of some protocols by now, but it seems the wait is not over yet.

It means that masks are still required to be used onboard the ship at all times when inside the vessel. On the outside decks, if not too crowded, and around the pool, a mask is not required. Neither is the mask needed on Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay

Royal Caribbean testing requirements for the US, Barbados, and Puerto Rico

For US sailings, vaccinated guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than two days before the day they board the vessel. Kids aged 2 to 11 should provide a negative PCR test taken no more than three days before boarding day; however, this test should not be taken on embarkation day as it could affect an antigen test that needs to be taken before boarding. 

Puerto Rico

For Puerto Rico, the rules are a little more complicated. Suppose guests are boarding a cruise ship in Puerto Rico, regardless of vaccination status. In that case, they should show a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 48 hours before arriving at the airport in San Juan. For international travelers, this requirement goes down to 24 hours.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Photo Credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock

For boarding the ship, a test result is also needed; however, provided you time it right, it can be the same result you used to enter Puerto Rico. 

One rule is significant for guests who wish to stay in Puerto Rico, especially those with small children that have not been vaccinated. If you arrive in Puerto Rico one or more days before the cruise, any unvaccinated guests have to quarantine for those days. Any unvaccinated non-residents staying in Puerto Rico post-cruise must quarantine for seven days.

There has been some good news regarding Puerto Rico this week. The island will be letting go of its testing requirements for port calls to the islands.


For Barbados, vaccinated travelers ages five years old and up must provide a negative test result to come into the country. This can be a PCR test taken within three days or a rapid PCR test taken within one day before arrival. 

Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 should provide a negative PCR COVID-19 test result at the cruise terminal taken no more than three days before the day you board the ship. This can be the same test used for entry into the country.

Royal Caribbean will be testing all guests again in the terminal before embarkation and before leaving the ship. The cruise line will shoulder the cost for these antigen tests. The departure test can then also be used for flying home if they satisfy the entry requirements for your country.

Although some countries have already let go of COVID measures, Royal Caribean does not feel it is the time just yet. The health and safety procedures will likely remain in place for cruise lines for the time being. Not just for Royal Caribbean, but for all cruise lines worldwide.

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