When will cruises start being a viable vacation option again?

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As we enter March, we enter the one-year anniversary of nationwide lockdowns due to the coronavirus. This past year has been unpredictable and unusual, to say the least. And many of us are wondering when we’ll be able to get back to our pre-pandemic lives.

For us here at Million Mile Secrets, getting back to normal means getting back to traveling freely. Cruising, in particular, allows travelers to explore many new places at once, and often for a fraction of the cost. So, it begs the question, when will cruising start again?

(Photo by Denis Belitsky/Shutterstock)

What are the current government restrictions on cruises?

The short answer to the question “When will cruises resume?” is that they already have — kind of. 

The CDC’s No Sail Order expired on Oct. 31, 2020, and the government is now rolling out a phased approach to resuming cruise ship operations. Currently, those plans do not include bringing travelers on board. Instead, the CDC is focusing on testing crewmembers, increasing safety measures, and conducting simulated cruises to ensure the cruise lines can follow the new procedures. 

There is no specific date scheduled to bring passengers back on board, but the plan could get to that phase as early as this summer. But the CDC still strongly advises against cruise travel for at least the duration of 2021. Mainly because the risk of getting coronavirus on a cruise ship is higher due to close contact with other passengers on board the vessel. So, if you’re going by the CDC guidelines, cruises are not a viable vacation option anytime soon. 

What are the current policies of major cruise lines?

If you’re going by the guidance of cruise lines, cruises will be a viable vacation option as early as this summer. 

Carnival

Carnival has voluntarily suspended cruises through May 31st, 2021. 

When cruises do become available again, Carnival says they will require 100% of passengers and crew to be tested for coronavirus before they embark on their journey. Passengers also must maintain six feet of social distance and wear a mask in all public areas of the ship when not eating or drinking. 

The cruise line discloses to all passengers they are at an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus by coming on board and advises all travelers to consult with a medical professional before booking.

Norwegian

As of February 16th, 2021, Norwegian has voluntarily suspended all of their cruises through May 31st, 2021. The cruise line stated on their website that they are working with local, state, federal, and global agencies to keep passengers safe and will continue to provide travelers with updated information as it becomes available.

While cruises are available to book on their website as early as June 2021, Norwegian reserves the right to make further changes and push these travel dates back again. 

Royal Caribbean 

Royal Caribbean is a little more optimistic than the other two cruise lines here and has suspended their sailings only until April 30th, 2021. They plan to resume sailing as early as May 1st of this year, with a few exceptions, including their Quantum of the Seas and Odyssey of the Seas trips. 

How to travel safely on a cruise

Eventually, cruising will resume. And if you choose to set sail, it’s essential to be safe!

When cruising starts up again, cruise operators will likely require a negative coronavirus test from all passengers before boarding. Once you’re on board, it will be important to maintain a safe, six-foot social distance from anyone you’re not traveling with and always wear a mask in public spaces. This includes any off-ship experiences, too! Plus, make sure you wash your hands often, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and stay away from anyone who is sick.

Plus, many major cruise lines have updated their air filtration and ventilation systems to better circulate airflow on board. In the unfortunate event that there is a coronavirus outbreak on board, your trip will stop immediately, and you will be taken to the nearest port for testing and quarantine. If this happens to you, the best thing you can do is follow the cruise staff’s instructions and isolate yourself from others.

The CDC is also advising anyone who has been on a cruise to get tested 3-5 days after their trip and self-isolate for a full seven days after travel, even if you test negative. If you don’t get tested, you’re to quarantine for 14 days. Additionally, if you fly out of the country for a cruise, all air passengers entering the U.S. (both citizens and non-citizens) must show proof of a negative coronavirus test upon re-entry.

FAQs

When will cruise ships sail again?

Cruises are set to resume as early as May and June of 2021. While you can book these cruises now, these dates are subject to change as the coronavirus situation evolves. And, the CDC still doesn’t recommend booking a trip at all. 

Will cruises require the covid vaccine?

Currently, no cruise lines have publicly stated they will require all passengers on their ships to be vaccinated for the coronavirus before their trip.  

Is going on a cruise safe? 

The CDC strongly advises against cruise travel because it is easier to contract infectious diseases in a confined space like a cruise ship. The CDC cautions those with severe health conditions or those at risk for severe health conditions to avoid cruises. It has issued a level four travel notice for cruising.

If I book a cruise, can I get a refund?

Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have all given the option of a full refund, a cruise credit, or rescheduling for anyone whose cruise has been impacted by the voluntary suspension of travel. If you book a cruise and it’s affected by extended travel restrictions, you’ll likely be offered the same options. 

That said, if you book a cruise but later decide you can’t or don’t want to go, you’ll be subject to the cruise line’s regular refund policy. Make sure you check these guidelines before you book on any cruise line!

Bottom line

Right now, cruises are available to book for as early as May and June of this year. But, the CDC still strongly cautions against all travel for the foreseeable future, and that includes cruises. So, once the summer months hit, it’s up to your own personal preferences and comfort level to determine if cruises are a viable vacation option for you. If you choose to cruise anytime soon, make sure you follow all protocols and procedures to make your trip as safe as possible! 

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Alexandra Maloney is a contributor for Million Mile Secrets where she covers points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel. She's worked as a writing consultant for the University of Richmond and is a features writer for The Collegian UR.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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