CDC Loosens Mask Requirements, Shore Excursion Rules for Vaccinated Cruise Passengers

Vaccinated cruise passengers will be able to ditch their masks in certain outdoor settings, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise passengers and crew that—if they are fully vaccinated—they may gather or conduct activities outdoors, including engaging in extended meal service or beverage consumption, without wearing a mask except in crowded settings," according to the CDC's updated rules for cruise ships.

The new guidance, which will affect cruises in the United States when they are eventually allowed to resume, is in line with the agency's general recommendation that fully vaccinated people can safely go without masks in several outdoor situations, like dining outdoors or attending a small outdoor gathering.

In addition to loosening mask rules, the CDC said fully vaccinated cruise passengers will be allowed to explore ports on their own, giving them the option of walking off the ship without needing to book an excursion through the cruise line.

The agency said passengers "may engage in self-guided or independent exploration during port stops, if they wear a mask while indoors. The cruise ship operator is additionally advised that foreign jurisdictions may have their own requirements."

Recently, Norwegian Cruise Line adopted a similar policy, allowing guests to explore ports on their own after initially requiring them to book through the cruise line. When Norwegian resumes sailing this summer, all guests will have to be fully vaccinated before boarding.

The CDC — which recommends passengers and crew get the jab before embarking and has waived the need for test sailings for ships with all vaccinated people — has a different set of rules for unvaccinated passengers.

The agency said cruise lines should "consider prohibiting self-guided or independent exploration" for unvaccinated guests and "offer supervised shore excursions." When it comes to masks, unvaccinated passengers must cover their faces except when eating or drinking or when participating in a water activity.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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