Vaccination status and proof is a hot button topic that has been politicized and everyone has an opinion — and plenty of judgement for the opposing one. Opinion (and everything that goes along with it) aside, if you’re planning to go on a cruise, is cruising unvaccinated a possibility? By the way, it’s not only those who are unvaccinated asking the question, plenty of people who are already fully vaccinated are uncomfortable with guests being on a cruise unvaccinated.
Why are the cruise lines so specific and strict with their vaccination (and testing) policies? Since the beginning of the pandemic, images of cruise ships being “stuck at sea” caused the government to target, unfairly in my opinion, the cruise lines as — if not the cause of Covid — the way the virus was spread. It’s no surprise to anyone that when the world shut down cruise lines and airlines were shut down, too. However when the world began to open up, cruises were still shut down even when hotels, resorts, and airlines were able to accept guests.
During the forced pause in cruising, strategies and technologies were implemented to make cruising safer than it’s ever been. The industry partnered up, created Healthy Sail Panels, and shared information. They installed air purification systems, cleaning and disinfecting protocols, changed the way food is served, and even developed contactless technology for on board payment of goods and services, making reservations, and even the muster drill.
Covid is going to be with us for the foreseeable future and even with all the technology, protocols in place, the pre-cruise testing requirements, and yes, vaccinated guests, there will be people who test positive onboard. Fortunately, due to the systems in place for when a guest or crew member tests positive, the number of cases has been a small percentage of the guests onboard. For example, if a guest test positive onboard, they — along with the people they’re traveling with — are immediately quarantined, contact tracing begins to determine who else may be at risk, and they are taken off at the next port and flown home at the expense of the cruise line.
Even with all this in mind, all the major cruise lines (virtually all the cruise lines) are requiring guests who are eligible to be fully vaccinated. Cruising unvaccinated is just not an option. No proof of vaccination, no cruise. With this reality firmly in mind, there are some case by case exceptions and if you’re already scheduled on a cruise and hoping to cruise unvaccinated you should check with your travel agent or directly with the cruise line.
You should know that any cruise line allowing exceptions is going to force anyone cruising unvaccinated to wear a mask, restrict access to certain areas on the ship (like the casino and gym), provide separate dining options, and have specific “non-vaccinated” entertainment options and times. In my opinion, if you’re planning on cruising unvaccinated or you’re concerned about other people who may be on the cruise unvaccinated, reschedule your cruise. Take the future cruise credit and wait until the policies align with your choices and risk threshold.