Cruise News Update: July 23, 2022

Plenty of coverage in this week's cruise news update as the CDC ends its cruise ship program and cruise lines drop testing.

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This is your weekly cruise news update which is dominated by the aftermath of the CDC ending its voluntary cruise ship program. Two cruise lines in the U.S. have already decided to end pre-cruise testing.

Cruise News Update

The cruise industry is another step closer to normality after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ended its voluntary program for cruise ships. We’ve got all the coverage on the developing cruise news, including Virgin Voyages and Margaritaville at Sea dropping pre-cruise testing.

There’s also news on a record-breaking week at Port Canaveral in Florida, venues closing on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, and a major construction milestone for the third Excel-class Carnival cruise ship.

CDC Ends COVID Progam for Cruise Ships

In a surprise announcement on July 18, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that effective immediately, the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships that has provided guidelines for pre-cruise and onboard health and safety protocols, as well as the color classification system for cruise ships, has ended.

The “voluntary” program for all cruise ships operating in U.S. waters was first implemented in February 2022, after the expiration of the more restrictive conditional sail order.

This program allowed cruise lines to opt into its guidance, providing another layer of public checks on health and safety protocols to reassure passengers about the safety of cruise travel.

CDC Logo Sign
Photo Credit: bear_productions / Shutterstock.com

The purpose of the CDC’s program was to more closely monitor cruise ships and track outbreaks of COVID-19 aboard vessels. Ships were assigned color codes – green, yellow, orange, red, or gray – to indicate the number of cases detected onboard.

As recently as the morning of July 18, the day the order was dropped, every single one of the 95 vessels being tracked by the CDC was classified as “orange” – indicating cases onboard and that the CDC was beginning or continuing an investigation into the ship’s mitigation measures.

The suspension of this program does not mean the CDC will no longer offer guidance to cruise ships or advice to travelers.

Instead, cruise lines and ships will be able to develop their own protocols, taking into account guidance from the CDC, but they are not required to follow regimented steps.

Virgin Voyages Drops Pre-Cruise Testing

Virgin Voyages announced on July 21 that, following the ending of the COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the cruise line would be ending its pre-cruise testing requirement for sailings from the U.S. as of July 27, 2022.

While the Virgin Voyages fleet is small – just the two vessels – this is a significant step for the cruise industry.

Valiant Lady is the cruise line’s youngest ship, having just embarked on her maiden voyage in March, and she is currently offering 7-night roundtrip Mediterranean sailings from Barcelona.

Scarlet Lady Cruise Ship in Miami
Photo Courtesy: Virgin Voyages

A number of cruise lines in Europe have already ended pre-cruise testing on selected voyages in line with local protocols, including Azamara Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Viking Cruises, so this move is not as stunning nor surprising.

Pre-cruise COVID-19 testing has been required by all cruise lines sailing from U.S. homeports since the cruise restart began in July 2021. Now that the CDC’s guidelines are no longer mandatory but only recommended, cruise lines can update their policies on an individual basis.

While the end of the testing requirement is a strong step, Virgin Voyages is maintaining its other health and safety protocols.

All guests will still be required to fill out pre-cruise health questionnaires, as well as abide by all local regulations, including mask wearing if required.

Virgin Voyages requires 90% of passengers to be vaccinated, and 100% of the ships’ crew is vaccinated.

Margaritaville at Sea Removes Pre-Cruise Testing

Those wanting to sail onboard the Margaritaville At Sea Paradise cruise ship will no longer be required to present a negative test result before their cruise to the Bahamas, as long as they have proof of being fully vaccinated. 

The company announced on July 22 the removal of the testing requirements saying it aims to make taking a cruise quicker and easier, starting with sailings on July 23.

Margaritaville at Sea Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Margaritaville at Sea

Margaritaville at Sea offers 3-day and 2-night voyages to Grand Bahama, and guests can cruise without the need to go through the stress of getting tested. 

While the news will overjoy many guests, they will need to keep in mind that this new procedure is only for those guests who have been fully vaccinated. This is both to satisfy the cruise line’s requirements, as well as the entry requirements to the Bahamas. 

Those guests who have not been fully vaccinated will still need to present a negative antigen COVID-19 test in advance of sailing, completed no more than one day before departure. The cruise line also recommends vaccinated guests continue to conduct testing in advance of departure.

Record Breaking Week for Port Canaveral

Cruising is most definitely back at the world’s second busiest cruise port, as more than 100,000 passengers were welcomed through central Florida’s Port Canaveral in just one week in early July. This marks the third time in 2022 the popular cruise embarkation port has seen such massive traffic.

From July 8-14, 2022, Port Canaveral welcomed an astonishing 107,000 passengers through its six cruise terminals. This is the highest number of passengers to visit in a single week in the cruise port’s history since it began hosting cruise ships in 1964, and demonstrates the amazing popularity and convenience of Port Canaveral for eager travelers.

Port Canaveral, Florida
Photo Credit: JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

During that week, cruise ships from a variety of lines either set sail from the port or visited as a port of call, including the brand new Disney Wish on her inaugural sailing.

This also marks the third time in 2022 that Port Canaveral has topped 100,000 passengers in a single week. During the local spring break week of March 11-17, more than 101,700 passengers visited Port Canaveral, and from July 1-7, the port saw 105,600 guests.

With the port’s schedule including massive vessels such as Carnival Cruise Line’s flagship Mardi Gras and two of Royal Caribbean International’s largest ships – Oasis of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas – making regular visits, Port Canaveral is sure to continue such tremendous passenger operations throughout 2022.

Cruise lines that homeport at Port Canaveral includes Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, MSC Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line.

Venues Close on NCL Cruise Ship

In a letter sent to booked guests, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that Spice H2O and the Sports Complex aboard the Epic-class Norwegian Epic will be closed during the August 14 sailing, a 7-night roundtrip Mediterranean itinerary from Barcelona, Spain.

The letter states, “We continuously aim to offer an enhanced experience for all our guests, and we strive to provide a world-class product consistent throughout our fleet. As part of this commitment, Norwegian Epic Sports Complex and Spice H2O are undergoing maintenance to better serve our guests, and therefore will be closed during your cruise.

Norwegian Cruise Line Ship Deck
Photo Credit: Aleksandr Dyskin / Shutterstock

The exact nature of the maintenance requiring the closure of the two spaces has not been disclosed.

Spice H2O is the ship’s adults-only (ages 18+) beach club on Decks 15 and 16 aft, which includes a pool that converts to a dance floor and a giant screen for visual effects, as well as a complimentary pool bar and grill and terraced lounger seating.

During the day, Spice H2O can be a quiet and relaxing space, while at night the area converts to an edgy nightclub vibe with music and dance parties.

Carnival Jubilee Keel Laid at Shipyard

Sporting cowboy hat-shaped hard hats, Christine Duffy, Meyer Werft Managing Director Bernard Meyer, and Carnival’s Senior Vice President of Newbuilds Ben Clement brought some fun to the Meyer Wert shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. 

Carnival Cruise Line and Meyer Werft celebrated the keel laying ceremony at the shipyard by placing coins under a massive 375-ton steel block, one of the first parts of Carnival Jubilee to be put in place.

Carnival Jubilee Keel Laying
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

The ceremony marked the completion of the first stage of the construction of Carnival’s third LNG-powered cruise ship, which started with the steel cutting ceremony in March.

As the ship is built, the coins will remain under its foundation as a symbol of good luck. The official ship coin depicts Carnival Jubilee alongside the original MS Jubilee from 1986, which was scrapped in 2016, commemorating an essential part of Carnival’s history and celebrating its future. 

Once completed, Carnival Jubilee will be heading to Galveston, where she will play an important part in further developing Carnival’s presence in Texas.

From Galveston, the ship will be sailing seven-day cruises to the Western Caribbean starting November 18, 2023, including voyages to Cozumel and Costa Maya in Mexico and Mahogany Bay on Isa Roatan, Honduras. 

More Cruise Headlines

It was just another busy week of cruise news across the cruise industry and we’ve got all the coverage, including cruise cancellations by Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line kids program expands reopening, P&O Cruises testing policy update, Carnival reaction after CDC ends its program, former MSC Cruise ship arrives for scrapping and plenty more stories all on Cruise Hive.

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