After almost a year stuck on dry land, cruise lovers may be itching to hit the high seas again on their favorite cruise lines. But with rules and regulations about cruising in flux, it can be hard to pinpoint when next you may be able to hop on board and sail away to paradise – and whether or not it is safe to do so.
At the end of October 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a conditional sailing order that remains in effect until Nov. 1, 2021 (pending further changes). The order states that cruise lines should take a phased approach when restarting service and must satisfy certain safety requirements to provide a healthy environment for crew members and travelers. In response, most major cruise lines have added new protocols on their ships with the aim of resuming select itineraries sometime this spring. Updates include, but are not limited to, face mask policies, daily temperature screenings and the introduction of onboard medical facilities designed for COVID-19 testing.
Still, deciding whether you want to embark on a voyage as soon as you can or wait it out a few more months (or years) is a personal choice. Before you prepare to set sail, be sure to discuss your health risks with your doctor, stay up to date on where Americans can travel and seek guidance from the CDC, the World Health Organization and other health and safety authorities. Read on to learn when popular river and ocean cruise lines plan to resume their voyages. (Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication and will be updated as cruising time frames and expert recommendations evolve.)
AmaWaterways: May 1, 2021
Once international river cruise line AmaWaterways resumes its voyages (planned for this spring), travelers can expect enhanced safety measures at all points of their journeys. First, cruisers will be sent a mandatory health questionnaire to fill out prior to their river cruise. Upon arrival, guests’ temperatures will be checked, and their suitcase handles will be sanitized. During each cruise, face masks will be required in public spaces, social distancing and frequent hand cleaning will be enforced, and shore excursions will be capped at a small number of participants. To learn more, see AmaWaterways’ website.
American Cruise Lines: March 13, 2021
With routes ranging from the Mississippi River to scenic spots across New England, river cruise company American Cruise Lines aims to begin reduced capacity sailings in early spring. The cruise line will require guests to present a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within four days of embarkation, and travelers are strongly encouraged to get a coronavirus vaccine (if available) and self-quarantine in the days or weeks leading up to the cruise. Face masks are required in group settings on board, and the company emphasizes that its heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems do not recirculate air between guest rooms or public areas. Read more on American Cruise Lines’ website.
American Queen Steamboat Company: April 2021
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, American Queen Steamboat Company has launched its SafeCruise initiative. Once the river cruise line begins welcoming guests again, travelers can expect precautions like pre-cruise health screenings, temperature checks, reduced capacities, social distancing in public areas and elevators, enhanced cleaning protocols using hospital-grade disinfectants, mandatory face masks and medical staff on board. For cruises embarking on July 1, 2021, or later, travelers will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine prior to their vacation. To see American Queen Steamboat Company’s full safety plan, visit the line’s website.
Azamara Club Cruises: May 1, 2021
Recently sold by Royal Caribbean Group to a private equity firm, Azamara Club Cruises intends to resume voyages on its roughly 700-person cruise ships in the spring. The brand has established a Healthy Sail Panel and is working with partners like the Cruise Lines International Association and government health officials to finalize its coronavirus preparedness plan prior to the above sail date. Check back here for further updates or see Azamara Club Cruises’ website for more information.
Carnival Cruise Line: May 1, 2021
Carnival Cruise Line plans to resume its cruises in May but is still working to finalize its COVID-19 protocols for future voyages. Still, the cruise line has confirmed that passengers looking to set sail on a Carnival ship should expect standard guidelines backed by the CDC and other experts, including the use of face masks, social distancing and testing before boarding. Check back here for further updates or see Carnival Cruise Line’s website for more information.
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Celebrity Cruises: May 1, 2021
Celebrity Cruises aims to begin sailing again this spring. The cruise line recommends all guests heed the advice of the CDC and other health organizations before booking a cruise. If a certain (unspecified) number of COVID-19 cases is detected on board a ship, the itinerary will conclude and the ship will return to the embarkation port. Celebrity also put together a panel of 11 health experts – including doctors and scientists – who advised the line to implement policies like temperature screenings, enhanced ventilation on board, sanitation stations and more. For more information, head to Celebrity Cruises’ website.
Costa Cruises: Feb. 27, 2021 (North America passengers)
Although Costa Cruises has received the green light to start accepting Italian citizens on its ships, North American travelers’ restart dates range from late February to late December, depending on the vessel. Once sailings resume, guests can expect coronavirus safety procedures like reduced occupancy, mandatory mask policies in public spaces, health screenings before boarding, new air filters and well-equipped medical centers on board. Learn more on Costa Cruises’ website.
Crystal Cruises: July 7, 2021
On Crystal Cruises’ two ships – Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony – future travelers will be protected during all parts of their journey by the Crystal Clean+ program. The initiative includes COVID-19 testing and temperature screenings during check-in, numerous health questionnaires, face mask policies, social distancing and reduced capacities, high-tech cleaning methods, hospital-grade disinfectants, new fresh-air ventilation systems, contactless dining protocols and more. Visit Crystal Cruises’ website to see its full list of enhanced policies.
Cunard Line: May 17, 2021
Select Cunard Line cruises with itineraries shorter than seven days are scheduled to restart this spring. However, voyages longer than eight days are suspended until at least Nov. 1, 2021, as of now. On Cunard sailings, travelers can expect policies like pre-boarding COVID-19 testing and screenings, upgraded cleaning efforts in public areas and guest rooms, hand-sanitizer stations dispersed throughout each ship, improved air filtration on board, and up-to-date guidelines on face masks and social distancing. At this time, Cunard Line cannot welcome guests with certain medical conditions – such as those requiring dialysis or supplementary oxygen – or who have been diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 within 14 days of embarkation. See Cunard’s website for more information.
Disney Cruise Line: June 2, 2021
Disney Cruise Line aims to resume select voyages in early June. While Disney has not yet released its full list of policies, the cruise company plans to comply with CDC guidance by requiring COVID-19 testing and health screenings, denying boarding to passengers exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, mandating the use of face masks and more. On top of that, itineraries that last longer than seven days have been canceled until further notice. For more information, head to Disney Cruise Line’s website.
[Read: What to Know for COVID-Era Travel.]
Holland America Line: May 2, 2021
Holland America Line plans to restart some of its sailings this spring, though the line’s popular Alaska itineraries may be impacted through 2021 due to Canada’s suspension of sailings until February 2022. Once the line’s other voyages restart, guests can plan on coronavirus safety protocols like pre-embarkation health screenings (and ongoing checks throughout each cruise), rapid response and contact tracing on board should cases arise, extensive sanitation of all ship areas, social distancing through reduced capacities and staggered event times, mandatory face masks, additional medical staff on each ship and more. Visit Holland America Line’s website for more information.
MSC Cruises: March 21, 2021
Although the earliest bookable itinerary aboard MSC Cruises begins March 21, 2021, in the Mediterranean, U.S. ports are closed until at least May 1, 2021. Cruisers who embark on MSC’s upcoming voyages will experience policies like pre-boarding health checks (and denied entry for anyone exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms), daily temperature screenings, adapted buffets (staff will serve guests), reduced capacities for activities and theaters, increased medical personnel on board and more. Masks will be required in public areas when social distancing is not possible. To read more about MSC’s full list of coronavirus safety measures, see its website.
Norwegian Cruise Line: June 2, 2021
As Norwegian Cruise Line prepares to welcome guests again in early June, the company has put some new policies in place. All ships now feature medical-grade air filters, and public and private spaces will be frequently sanitized with powerful disinfectants. Travelers should expect contactless temperature checks at multiple points during their cruise, including before boarding, before dining, before activities in public areas and before getting off of the ship at ports of call. Social distancing will be encouraged on board, and a bevy of medical supplies will be available should any guests fall ill during their vacation. Check Norwegian Cruise Line’s website for further details.
[Looking for a Caribbean escape? See the top Caribbean cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
Oceania Cruises: June 2, 2021
In partnership with its Healthy Sail Panel, Oceania Cruises has prepared its ships with the aim of sailing again in June. Coronavirus safety protocols include continuous sanitization of all public and private spaces, upgraded hospital-grade air filtration systems, a dedicated health officer, touchless food service, health screenings, social distancing measures and more. See Oceania’s website for more information on its health plan.
Princess Cruises: May 15, 2021
Travelers looking to embark on a Princess Cruises voyage once sailings resume will be met by elements of the line’s CruiseHealth initiative. Highlights include health screenings at embarkation, touch-free boarding, enhanced ventilation systems, consistent sanitization of all areas and contactless mobile ordering for poolside food and drinks. Physical distancing will be enforced, and guests will be required to wear masks in areas where distancing is difficult. Additionally, staff in the onboard medical center are trained to handle any arising cases of COVID-19. To learn more, visit Princess Cruises’ website.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises: June 1, 2021
Luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises is working with a panel of experts with the aim of safely sailing again in early June. Protocols include enhanced cleaning policies, upgraded air filtration systems, health screenings prior to embarkation, touch-free food service, reduced capacities on board, social distancing measures and more. Each ship will have a dedicated public health officer to oversee that all expectations are met. For more information, see Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ website.
Royal Caribbean International: May 1, 2021
With the exception of two ships sailing through Asia in March and April, Royal Caribbean International’s cruises are suspended until early May. The line’s Healthy Sail Panel will deploy new safety protocols, including mandatory face masks and enhanced cleaning policies, once ships set sail again. If a predetermined number of COVID-19 cases is recorded on a future voyage, the cruise will conclude immediately. Visit Royal Caribbean’s website for its full list of updates.
[Want to plan a Caribbean trip? See the top Caribbean cruises on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
Seabourn Cruise Line: May 1, 2021
Seabourn Cruise Line’s almost all-balcony accommodations and smaller ship sizes (between 450 and 600 people per vessel) are convenient perks amid the coronavirus pandemic. As Seabourn works to resume its sailings this spring, the line has put policies like embarkation health screenings, staggered boarding times, mandatory masks (when social distancing is impossible), upgraded ventilation and contact tracing into place. To see all of Seabourn’s health and safety guidelines, visit its website.
Silversea Cruises: May 1, 2021
Travelers looking to embark on a Silversea Cruises voyage may be able to do so this spring. Once the line resumes its sailings, guests must provide a negative COVID-19 test result taken between 24 hours and five days pre-cruise to board. Masks will be required in indoor public areas, sanitation efforts will be enhanced throughout the ships and physical distancing will be encouraged. Upcoming Silversea itineraries only include low-risk ports of call, and medical staff will be on each ship to help any passengers who feel ill. To learn more, visit Silversea Cruises’ website.
Tauck River Cruises: March 1, 2021
Tauck River Cruises, which operates in all seven continents, hopes to resume its river voyages in the coming weeks. Tauck’s Travel Well Pledge states that all guests should wear face masks in public areas, sanitize their hands often and follow the guidelines of health authorities, which may include presenting a negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding or other safety protocols. Tauck will have extra face coverings, hand sanitizer and other supplies on board, but passengers are also encouraged to bring their own. For Tauck’s full statement, see its website.
[See: 17 Bucket List Cruise Itineraries.]
Uniworld River Cruise Collection: April 4, 2021
Uniworld’s boutique river cruise vessels hold about 120 passengers each, making it relatively easy to social distance while on board. Safety protocols include pre-embarkation health screenings, temperature checks, enhanced cleaning with antimicrobial products and more. Head to Uniworld’s website to read more about its coronavirus safety plan.
Viking Ocean Cruises: May 2, 2021
Once Viking Ocean Cruises’ sailings resume, guests can expect a number of changes. Travelers (and staff) will be tested for COVID-19 daily using PCR tests, and new air purification technology has been implemented on all ships. The line will also encourage face masks and social distancing measures, and public surfaces will be frequently disinfected. Although Viking will not require cruisers to get tested independently prior to their trip, it is highly recommended – especially for those experiencing symptoms. Should a traveler test positive during the voyage, Viking will isolate them on board, then disembark them from the ship and arrange lodging in the nearest port until it is safe for the cruiser to fly home. For Viking’s full health plan, check its website.
Viking River Cruises: May 30, 2021
Viking’s river cruising counterpart will follow the same guidelines as Viking Ocean Cruises, with the added benefit of smaller ship capacities (the line’s river cruise vessels hold about 190 guests, compared to Viking’s roughly 930-guest ocean ships). Guests should expect daily PCR tests, social distancing, embarkation temperature checks and other coronavirus safety precautions. Face masks are encouraged, but not required, in dining establishments, bars and lounges. To learn more, visit Viking River Cruises’ website.
Virgin Voyages: May 9, 2021
Brand-new cruise line Virgin Voyages was originally set to debut its first ship, the Scarlet Lady, in April 2020. Due to the pandemic, the ship’s inaugural sailing is now scheduled for May 9, 2021, while the line’s second vessel, the Valiant Lady, aims to hit the high seas on Nov. 14, 2021. On board, travelers can expect precautions like temperature checks and health screenings, staggered boarding, touchless technologies and lower occupancies – all part of the line’s Voyage Well initiative. Virgin’s ships were not designed with any buffet-style eateries, which may help reduce transmission risks while dining. To keep up to date on Virgin Voyages news, see its website.
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