Skip to content

In a first, a cruise line just announced a COVID-19 vaccination requirement

Jan. 25, 2021
6 min read
In a first, a cruise line just announced a COVID-19 vaccination requirement
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It's official: On at least a few ships, and maybe many more, you won't be cruising this year unless you can show proof that you've been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Folkstone, England-based Saga Cruises on Tuesday became the first major cruise brand in the world to announce that passengers will need to show proof of being vaccinated for COVID‑19 before stepping on a ship when cruising resumes later this year.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

The two-ship line, which caters to British travelers over the age of 50, hasn't operated departures since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic but plans to resume trips in May.

Many other lines are looking at such a vaccine requirement, too.

Just last month, the top executive of the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises said its lawyers were examining the legality of such a requirement for passengers.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

Lawyers for Norwegian Cruise Line's parent company are looking into whether the company can require passengers to have COVID-19 vaccines on ships such as Norwegian Sky. (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

“It will certainly be a requirement for the crew,” Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio said in a Zoom chat with the president of Travel Leaders Group, a major cruise seller. “But it’s too early to tell whether we have the legal standing to mandate that you take a vaccine to come onboard -- lawyers are looking at it as we speak."

Still, whatever the lawyers decide, Del Rio noted there was "talk beginning to emerge from different corners of the travel industry, the airlines as well, of requiring some kind of immunity passport demonstrating that you’ve had the virus or been vaccinated so that you are good to go. We have to build confidence in our customers and among ourselves that it’s safe to cruise.”

In a research report issued Friday, Truist analyst C. Patrick Scholes suggested a vaccination requirement could become the norm at upscale and luxury lines such as Oceania, Regent and Silversea, based on what he's hearing from people in the industry.

Vaccination requirements at mass-market brands were less likely, he said.

"The deciding factor for the companies may be if a cruise brand will gain more customers by requiring a vaccine than they will lose by not requiring it," Scholes said. "In that case, it becomes a marketing issue."

Related: 14 things you should do before every cruise

Another variable in the equation is whether airlines require travelers to be vaccinated, Scholes said. If so, cruisers who must fly to reach a ship may have to be vaccinated whether or not their line requires it.

Scholes said crew on ships likely will be required to be vaccinated.

Executives at a number of lines in recent weeks have said their companies have yet to make a decision on whether they will or won't require passengers to be vaccinated.

That's the case at Royal Caribbean Group, the parent company of the world's largest cruise line by passenger capacity, Royal Caribbean, as well as Celebrity Cruises and Silversea.

In an interview with Porthole Magazine earlier this month, Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO Richard Fain suggested the company's decision on the issue would be guided by the recommendation of a panel of health experts that it has assembled over the past year.

"The purpose of the panel is to advise us on things like that," Fain said. "Exactly how are we going to require it? Are we going to just use it as an adjunct? I think all of that is going to come out reasonably soon."

Related: The 9 most anticipated new ships of 2021

Some cruisers who are reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine already are grumbling about the possibility of a mandatory vaccine requirement at online cruise fan sites and at Facebook groups devoted to cruising. But the number who say they won't cruise if such a requirement goes into effect appears relatively small.

In a survey of nearly 3,000 readers this week, the world's biggest online cruise site, Cruise Critic, found that 81% of its audience would continue to cruise if vaccines were required to sail. Just 5% of those surveyed said they wouldn't sail under such conditions. The rest were unsure.

"Of those who would cruise, we see a mix between people who are fine with the concept of a mandate, and others who would actually feel more safe if that were the case – knowing that others onboard, and they themselves, have been vaccinated," Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, told The Points Guy.

McDaniel said a number of the site's readers had shared that they expected many cruise destinations to impose a requirement for visitors to be vaccinated for COVID-19 -- whatever the cruise lines decide. If that's the case, the issue of whether cruise lines require it becomes moot.

While cruisers are mostly on board with such a requirement, they still have some worries about it, McDaniel said.

"Even among those who are open to the concept, we are seeing some logistical concerns – mainly worries around how quickly they’ll be able to receive the vaccine and, in turn, how quickly they’ll be able to return to sea,” she said.

In making its announcement this week, Saga Cruises said passengers would need to have gotten both doses of two-dose COVID-19 vaccines a full 14 days before sailing to be allowed on ships. That means that passengers on the line's first scheduled sailing this year, on May 4, would need to have their final doses administered by April 20.

Given the slow rollout of the available vaccines so far in many countries around the world, such a timeline could present a problem for some cruisers.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

TPG featured card

Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 3X points
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points60,000 points
For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent, Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases