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Norwegian becomes first major cruise company to drop vaccination requirement

August 8 2022
4 min read
Norwegian becomes first major cruise company to drop vaccination requirement
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More travelers will soon be able to book a cruise, thanks to a significant easing of COVID-19-related health policies at cruise giant Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

The parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises on Monday became the first major cruise operator to announce an end to a COVID-19 vaccination requirement, effective Sept. 3. The company also will ease its pre-cruise COVID-19 testing requirements on Sept. 3.

When cruising resumed in the U.S. in 2021 after the industry's COVID-19 hiatus, pandemic protocols required most cruise ships to sail with the majority of passengers vaccinated, leaving few to no spaces for unvaccinated guests; these were mainly reserved for children too young to be vaccinated. Norwegian's announcement means that now, for the first time since those protocols went into effect, unvaccinated travelers can book a cruise with a major line with relative ease (a handful of small-ship lines such as American Cruise Lines have not required passengers to have vaccinations for some time).

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There are some caveats — local regulations take precedence over the new cruise line protocols and unvaccinated passengers will need a negative COVID-19 test to sail — but this is big news for the cruise industry.

“Our long-awaited revisions to our testing and vaccination requirements bring us closer in line with the rest of society, which has learned to adapt and live with COVID-19," said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “The relaxation of protocols coupled with continued easing of travel restrictions and the reopening to cruise in more ports around the globe are meaningfully positive for our business as it reduces friction, expands the addressable cruise market, brings variety to itineraries and provides additional catalysts on the road to recovery."

The revised COVID-19 cruising protocols for the company's three brands drop the mandatory COVID-19 testing requirements for vaccinated passengers ages 12 and older. Unvaccinated passengers ages 12 and older, or those who cannot or decline to provide proof of vaccination, will be welcomed on board with a negative antigen or PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure.

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These new guidelines mean that vaccinated passengers ages 12 and older will no longer have any pre-cruise COVID-19 related protocols. Travelers ages 11 and under will not be subject to vaccination requirements or testing protocols of any kind.

These changes should be welcome news for travelers eager to sail on the highly anticipated Norwegian Prima, NCL's first new ship in nearly three years.

Note, however, that these protocol changes are still subject to local regulations. Vaccinated guests will be required to meet the definition of “fully vaccinated” based on the destination they are embarking from and traveling to on their cruise. Unvaccinated travelers will need to make sure the cruise ports they're visiting do not have a vaccination requirement that is different from their cruise line's.

To date, none of the other major U.S.-based cruise lines have completely dropped their vaccination requirements.

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Featured photo by (Photo courtesy of Norwegian)
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.

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