Do children need to be vaccinated to cruise? These 8 major lines say yes
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If you’re planning a family cruise, make sure a trip to the vaccine clinic is on your pre-cruise checklist.
That’s because many major cruise lines are requiring children as young as 5 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to sail.
By the time the major cruise lines began to return ships to service in spring 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved emergency use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for adults and kids ages 12 and older. In the name of health and safety, most cruise lines announced rules requiring vaccinations for all travelers who were eligible, with several allowing exemptions for children too young to get the shot.
In late October, the FDA extended the emergency authorization of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to kids as young as 5 years. Following that announcement, several of the industry’s most popular cruise lines amended their rules to say that even young children must now show proof that they’ve had their shots before they can sail.
Currently, all major cruise lines allow limited exemptions for children younger than 5.
Here, I’ll recap the eight biggest cruise lines’ vaccination policies for children and teens. I’ll also point out, with an asterisk, the ones that have changed to include kids between 5 and 11 years old.
In all cases below, “fully vaccinated” means that passengers have received their final dose of a World Health Organization- or FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 15 days prior to sailing. Because the U.S. does not currently issue official certificates of recovery, lines do not allow a previous COVID-19 diagnosis to take the place of vaccination unless otherwise noted. Whenever possible, U.S. passengers should show their original, physical vaccine cards. Currently, none of the major cruise lines require boosters for eligible teens.
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Carnival Cruise Line
Children and teens 12 and older must be fully vaccinated in order to cruise with Carnival. Shots are not required for anyone younger than 12, but the line allows only a small number of vaccine exceptions per voyage, so it’s advised that children 5 to 11 also be immunized. Proof of vaccination can be shown in the form of an original vaccine card or a digital record from an official source, such as a healthcare provider.
See Carnival’s Have Fun. Be Safe. policies for more details.
Celebrity Cruises requires anyone who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine to be fully inoculated before being allowed to sail. That means anyone 5 years or older must have proof that they’ve had their shots. Passengers younger than 5 will be required to present negative test results and submit to mandatory testing at the port on embarkation day.
See Celebrity’s Healthy at Sea page for additional information.
Disney Cruise Line*
Currently, Disney Cruise Line requires all passengers 5 and older to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Additional testing will be required on embarkation day for travelers who are younger than 5 years old.
Check out Disney Cruise Line’s Know Before You Go section to learn more.
Holland America Line*
All passengers 5 years old and older who wish to sail must be fully vaccinated on all Holland America voyages. The line is now allowing children 4 and younger to sail unvaccinated since the shots are not yet available for that age group. Proof of vaccination can be shown in the form of an original vaccine card or a digital record from an official source, such as a healthcare provider.
View Holland America’s Travel Well FAQ for details.
Two weeks after saying that all passengers 5 and older must be vaccinated in order to sail, MSC rolled back the mandate to its previous policy. Currently, only passengers 12 and older must have their shots.
See MSC’s What to Know Before You Go literature to better plan your voyage.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line requires that all passengers 12 and older must be fully immunized before boarding. Children 11 and younger are allowed to sail with proof of negative COVID-19 tests pre-embarkation.
To read more, visit Norwegian’s Sail Safe page.
Princess will only allow cruisers to embark if they have had all doses of an approved vaccine. This includes children as young as 5. A small number of exceptions will be granted for unvaccinated children, as long as they test negative prior to boarding.
To learn more, read up on Princess’ Cruise Health requirements.
Royal Caribbean International
Because a large percentage of its passenger base consists of children, Royal Caribbean has been a bit more flexible than most lines with its rules. Currently, all passengers 12 and older must be fully vaccinated. Although children 5 to 11 aren’t required to have their shots to sail, they can show proof of full inoculation in order to be considered vaccinated passengers. (Due to CDC requirements, only a small number of exceptions is granted per sailing for young children.) To be granted permission to cruise, unvaccinated children will have to submit to testing at the port facility.
Further information can be found on Royal Caribbean’s FAQ page.
For a more comprehensive list of cruise line vaccination policies for cruisers of all ages, visit our line-by-line guide to cruise vaccination requirements. For information on testing for a cruise, check out our piece on pre- and post-cruise testing.
Planning a family cruise? Start with these stories:
- The 8 best cruise ships for kids
- The 5 best cruise lines for families
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- What to pack for your first cruise
- 16 mistakes cruisers make on cruise ship sea days
Featured photo by Rodrigo Buendia/AFP/Getty Images.
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