Major Cruise Lines Are Dropping Mask Mandates

Plus, more than 100 ships are participating in the CDC's voluntary program

Young woman putting on a protective face mask to travel safely on a cruise ship, Mediterranean sea, Italy
Giacomo Augugliaro / Getty Images

Several major cruise lines are either easing the restrictions surrounding masking or dropping mandates altogether.

Carnival recently announced that on cruises departing March 1, masks will only be recommended, although they may be mandated in "certain venues and events." There will also be more flexibility on pre-cruise testing requirements, and children under five years old will no longer "be required to receive an exemption to sail" as they will "not be included in any vaccinated guest calculation."

"We have had a very successful restart of guest operations thanks to the support of our guests, the commitment of our shipboard team, and the effective protocols we have put in place," said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a statement. "The public health situation has continued to improve, providing confidence about these changes. Our protocols will evolve as we continue to remain dedicated to protecting the public health of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit."

According to Royal Caribbean, as of Feb. 25, fully vaccinated passengers will no longer be required to mask on cruises departing the U.S. and Puerto Rico, with the exception of children taking part in the Adventure Ocean youth program. While ashore at the cruise line's private destinations, including Perfect Day at CocoCay, masks are optional for all passengers.

Norwegian Cruise Line says that because all crew and passengers age 12 and up must be fully vaccinated prior to boarding, starting March 1, face coverings are only recommended in public indoor spaces, or when it is impossible to social distance outside.

Other cruise lines that will be dropping their mask requirement include Virgin Voyages (Feb. 27) and Princess Cruises (March 1).

As of Feb. 24, Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises require masks while indoors (except when dining or in a stateroom), while Viking Cruises says that it may ask passengers and crew to wear face coverings depending on the current COVID situation.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just announced big news for travelers planning a cruise this winter or spring: More than 100 cruise ships have decided to participate in the public health agency's voluntary COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, which was created to help cruise ship operators follow health and safety guidelines that minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The CDC gave cruise lines until Feb. 18 to opt into the program; guidelines include mandatory measures including "inform[ing] passengers of any mandatory public health measures prior to boarding" and "place[ing] posters in high-traffic areas that encourage hand hygiene." Cruise ship operators are also encouraged to implement vaccination strategies and minimize in-person interactions between passengers and crew.

Under the program, cruise lines must also follow protocols regarding screening embarking passengers for COVID symptoms and isolating symptomatic travelers once onboard. The program went into effect one month after the CDC allowed its Conditional Sailing Order to expire.

More than 100 ships that decided to participate in the CDC's program are represented by major cruise lines, including Disney Cruise Lines, MSC Cruises, Viking Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Carnival Corporation, and Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Article Sources
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  1. Carnival Newsroom. "Carnival Cruise Line Will Participate in CDC Updates; Provides Update to Guests." February 18, 2022

  2. Royal Caribbean. "Will I Have To Wear a Face Mask Onboard My Cruise?" Accessed February 24, 2022.

  3. Norwegian Cruise Line. "Safety For Our Guests and Crew." Accessed February 24, 2022.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Cruise Ship Color Status." Retrieved on February 24, 2022.