Update: As of early June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has begun approving select cruise ships for simulated trial voyages and limited sailings, based on their compliance with guidelines set forth in the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order. The CDC has issued an order that all passengers and crew members aboard maritime vessels must wear face masks unless otherwise exempted. The organization also recommends passengers get a COVID-19 vaccine prior to cruising, though it is up to individual cruise lines to determine their own vaccination requirements at this time.
After more than 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 in the near future. 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: July 3, 2021
Select European river cruise routes aboard AmaWaterways vessels are set to resume in early July 2021. 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: Cruising as of March 13, 2021
With routes ranging from the Mississippi River to scenic spots across New England, river cruise company American Cruise Lines began sailing again at 75% capacity in mid-March 2021. The cruise line requires guests to present a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within four days of embarkation, and travelers may need to be fully vaccinated before setting sail, depending on the region. 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: Crusing as of mid-March 2021
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, American Queen Steamboat Company launched its SafeCruise initiative. The river cruise line resumed select sailings in the South in mid-March, followed by voyages through the Pacific Northwest in May and June. 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. American Queen Steamboat Company’s fleetwide vaccine mandate for all cruises starts July 1, 2021. To see American Queen Steamboat Company’s full safety plan, visit the line’s website.
Azamara Club Cruises: August 28, 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 starting late this summer. 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: July 3, 2021
Carnival Cruise Line plans to resume its cruises in July. As of right now, the line will require travelers to be fully vaccinated to embark on its first two voyages out of Galveston, Texas, in early and mid-July. 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.
[Ready to plan a cruise? Find the best value sailings on GoToSea, a service of U.S. News.]
Celebrity Cruises: Cruising as of June 5, 2021
Celebrity Cruises deployed its first cruise ship for a weeklong sailing through the Caribbean on June 5, 2021, with 500 passengers on board representing a 95% vaccination rate. The line aims to continue offering Caribbean and Greek island sailings through the rest of the month with more robust itinerary offerings planned for July, August and beyond. The cruise line will require all travelers 18 and older to be fully vaccinated 14 days prior to embarkation, and travelers 12 and older must be fully vaccinated as of August 1, 2021. Guests will also need to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result acquired within 72 hours of the sail date. Celebrity’s panel of 11 health experts – including doctors and scientists – 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: Cruising as of mid-May 2021
Costa Cruises began sailing again on select ships in the Mediterranean as of mid-May. Restart dates for other ships will continue through the summer into December, depending on the vessel. 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 3, 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. Travelers must also be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to cruising. Visit Crystal Cruises’ website to see its full list of enhanced policies.
Cunard Line: November 2021
Select Cunard Line cruises for United Kingdom residents are scheduled to restart in mid-July, but international sailings likely won’t resume until at least November 2021. 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. Several previously scheduled voyages between October 2021 and April 2022 have been canceled and will be rescheduled with new itineraries. See Cunard’s website for more information.
Disney Cruise Line: August 9, 2021
Disney Cruise Line aims to resume special “staycation” voyages for United Kingdom residents and select Caribbean sailings for Americans in August. The line’s first test voyage for Americans was set to take place on June 29, 2021, but it was indefinitely postponed due to inconsistent COVID-19 test results. 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: July 24, 2021
Holland America Line plans to restart its Alaska sailings at the end of July and some of its Greece sailings in August. 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: August 2, 2021
Although MSC Cruises is currently allowing residents of select European countries on its Mediterranean routes, most voyages will not resume until at least early August 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: August 10, 2021
Norwegian Cruise Line is preparing to welcome guests again in August aboard select ships. In early April 2021, Norwegian Cruise Line announced it will require passengers to be fully vaccinated two weeks prior to embarking on a voyage. Crew members must also be fully vaccinated before sailing. 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: August 29, 2021
In partnership with its Healthy Sail Panel, Oceania Cruises has prepared its ships with the aim of sailing again in late August, starting with Oceania Marina. Departures aboard the line’s other five vessels will be staggered between October 2021 to January 2022. The cruise line will require all guests and crew members to be fully immunized against COVID-19 at least two weeks before traveling. Other 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: July 25, 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: September 11, 2021
Luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises is working with a panel of experts to restart sailings aboard its first ship in September. The line plans to have all of its ships back out to sea by February 2022. To board any Regent Seven Seas Cruises vessel, all crew members and vacationers must be fully vaccinated 14 days before their sail dates. Additionally, all guests must take a COVID-19 antigen test during the boarding process and receive a negative result to continue on their cruise. 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: July 2, 2021
Royal Caribbean International plans to resume select voyages in early July. Royal Caribbean’s recently updated vaccination guidelines state that ships leaving out of ports in Florida and Texas will not require proof of vaccination, while sailings departing from Seattle and the Bahamas will. Guests will be tested for COVID-19 prior to boarding, and other safety protocols must be followed. 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: July 3, 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 summer, 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. Additionally, all travelers must be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before cruising in order to board. To see all of Seabourn’s health and safety guidelines, visit its website.
Silversea Cruises: Cruising as of June 18, 2021
In mid-June, Silversea Cruises embarked on its first voyage (a Greece itinerary) since the pandemic began. As the line continues to resume more of its sailings, guests should expect to 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. All guests and crew members must be fully vaccinated before traveling. To learn more, visit Silversea Cruises’ website.
Tauck River Cruises: July 2021
Tauck River Cruises, which operates in all seven continents, aims to resume all of its U.S. river voyages in July (aside from a few select sailings this spring). Tauck’s Travel Well Pledge states that all guests should either be fully vaccinated or present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken within five days of traveling. Guests should also wear face masks in public areas, sanitize their hands often and follow the guidelines of health authorities. 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: Cruising as of June 20, 2021
Uniworld’s boutique river cruise vessels hold about 120 passengers each, making it relatively easy to social distance while on board. Select European river cruises resumed in late June 2021. 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: Cruising as of June 15, 2021
After a handful of voyages for U.K. residents embarked in late May, Viking Ocean Cruises restarted sailings through Bermuda and Iceland in June 2021 for fully vaccinated travelers. Guests (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 encourages 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: July 2021
Viking’s river cruising counterpart is expected to relaunch its cruises in July and 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: August 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 has been pushed several times. The line plans to debut the Scarlet Lady with a series of mini sailings in the U.K. starting in early August, followed by U.S. sailings (and other ship debuts) starting in September. 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. Additionally, Virgin Voyages’ guests and crew members must all be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before sailing. To keep up to date on Virgin Voyages news, see its website.
Windstar Cruises: Cruising as of June 19, 2021
Windstar Cruises, which operates small-scale ships accommodating between 150 and 350 guests each, resumed its cruises in mid-June. Windstar requires all crew and vacationers to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 at least two weeks before traveling. The company will also administer an antigen test for each passenger during the boarding process; the result must come back negative in order to cruise. For an extra level of protection, Windstar has installed hospital-grade air filters on all yachts, uses electrostatic sprayers to disinfect all surfaces on board and more. Visit Windstar Cruises’ website to learn more.
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