Cruise companies ease or end pandemic rules

Cruise travel rebounds strongly across globe
/ New Delhi
Cruise companies ease or end pandemic rules

Carnival, Princess & Cunard make it easier for customers to embark on a cruise

As passengers return with renewed vigour and the industry gets sailing again, Cruise operators around the world are doing away with the restrictions that had ruled the roost for almost 30 months, almost sinking the entire industry. With end of restrictions or at least easing them, the cruise industry is headed for a smooth sail again.
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In a series of relaxations, different cruise line operators around the world have begun to ease the conditions of sailing for customers and some are even going to the extent of removing all restrictions, including mandatory vaccinations. For most part, the cruise firms are following the norms laid down by health regulatory authorities around the world, though some have kept in place even those restrictions that had been removed by the governments.

On Saturday, Carnival Cruise Line updated its health and safety protocols, making it easier for even unvaccinated passengers to set sail on board their ships again. The firm announced that it was eliminating pre-cruise testing for unvaccinated guests, saying that it still meets ‘‘public health standards goals but recognises the evolving nature of Covid-19’’.

The new protocol for Cunard mandates that vaccinated customers have to continue to provide evidence of their vaccination status prior to embarkation. However, a Covid-19 test before boarding is no longer required, except for cruises to Canada, Bermuda, Greece, and Australia (per local guidelines), and on voyages that last 16 nights or longer.

The cruise operator says that unvaccinated guests are also welcome to sail and are no longer required to apply for a vaccine exemption, except for cruises in Australia or on voyages that stretch for 16 nights and longer. However, the unvaccinated customers will need to present results of a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours days of embarkation. It adds that all the policies are subject to local destination regulations and could be modified as per the government orders.

Carnival has also said that children under the age of five years are exempt from vaccination and testing requirements when sailing from the United States and under the age of 12 for those sailing from Australia.

“Our ships have been sailing very full all summer, but there is still room for more of our loyal guests, and these guidelines will make it a simpler process, and make cruising accessible for those who were not able to meet the protocols we were required to follow for much of the past 14 months,” Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line, said in a statement.

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“We have got lots happening, with Carnival Luminosa and Carnival Celebration joining our fleet this November and more to come in 2023. Whatever the ship, homeport or itinerary that works for you, our great onboard team is ready to deliver a fun vacation – something we all look forward to even more nowadays!,” she adds.

Princess Cruises & Cunard modify rules

Another cruise operator, Princess Cruises has also said it will remove the Covid-19 vaccine requirement for most voyages of fewer than 16 nights and will ease pre-travel testing requirements.

In a statement, Princess Cruises says that with effect from September 6, vaccinated customers onboard its ships and sailing for fewer than 16 nights will no longer be required to test before boarding and only will need to upload proof of vaccination.

However, the unvaccinated customers, or those who do not provide proof of vaccination, on those itineraries will be required to self-test within three days of sailing and upload proof of a negative test before boarding. Princess says that these new protocols apply to itineraries from all departure ports except where government regulations and protocols may vary, such as in Canada, Greece and Australia.

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The updated rules for boarding Princess Cruises ships says that there is no need for pre-cruise testing for vaccinated passengers of ages 5 years and older on voyages of up to 15 nights with the exception of full Panama Canal transits, trans-ocean and other special itineraries. It also says that customers 5 years and older sailing on voyages 16 nights or longer, or sailing on full Panama Canal transits, trans-ocean and other specific itineraries, need to take a supervised test within three days of embarkation. Guests on these types of voyages will be contacted directly by an Ocean Navigator to assist.

The unvaccinated guests must provide a negative self-test result taken within three days of embarkation, but unvaccinated children under 5 years do not require pre-cruise testing. “These updated guidelines help ensure a Princess vacation is available to everyone,” says John Padgett, President of Princess Cruises.

Another cruise operator, Cunard has also modified its rules and from September 6, self-testing before travel will change from “mandatory” to “highly recommended” for vaccinated guests on the vast majority of voyages. Guests on longer, more complex itineraries will be required to have an observed or in-person antigen or PCR test with a fit-to-travel certificate before departure. These include a number of sailings of 16 nights or more and other specified voyages.

“These updated protocols reflect the current environment across the world and, while certain key elements have relaxed, our commitment to protect the health and well-being of all guests, crew and the communities we visit remains an ongoing and vital consideration,” says Matt Gleaves, vice president, commercial-North America and Australasia. “They also ensure that the ease of cruising remains at the fore and that all guests of all ages can enjoy a voyage with unrivalled dining, relaxation and exploration options and unmatched service levels at extraordinary value for money.”

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The cruise operator says that the exact requirements will be communicated to all guests in due course with the latest updates posted on the company website in early September.

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