The news coverage of the cruise ship, Diamond Princess, which was forced to quarantine following an outbreak of COVID-19, seems like a distant memory however the incident has understandably left some people feeling cautious about setting sail.
As restrictions continue to lift, cruise line companies along with airlines and package holiday providers are introducing new rules for travelling. These will differ depending on the country you are travelling to, and the mode of transport you are taking, but below you will find information on what you now need to know before, during and after your cruise. If you are still unsure or we haven’t quite answered your question, please get in touch at email@example.com
Before booking your cruise, it is important to consider whether this is the right mode of travel for you right now. The government has warned that viruses can spread quickly in confined spaces, such as a cruise ship, and if an outbreak was to occur scheduled docking may be refused. This can have serious implications if you are stuck on board, particularly if you are travelling with an existing medical condition, need to return home for appointments or only have a limited number of prescription medications with you. We advise you to speak with the cruise line you are planning to travel with to understand their protocols and plan of action should this happen during your trip.
Prior to COVID-19, all passengers were required to show a copy of their travel insurance certificate or schedule either when booking their cruise or during the boarding process. Although this rule still stands, most cruise lines are now stating that your travel insurance policy must offer cover COVID-19 including, but not limited to, COVID-19 cover for curtailment, medical expenses, and repatriation. If you are unable to produce proof of travel insurance that meets the requirements you will not be allowed to board the cruise ship. It is important to check with the cruise line what level of cover they are expecting you to have. In the event you are refused boarding due to not having the correct travel documents, your travel insurance policy will not reimburse any costs.
Passengers will need to be double vaccinated, at least 14 days prior to departure, to travel with most cruise lines. A negative COVID test is also required, and many UK cruise lines are offering a free test to passengers during the departure process. Other companies are asking you to arrange a private PCR test (NHS tests are not accepted and a list of reputable companies can be found on the government website) which must be taken within 72 hours before departure. Depending on where the cruise ship will be docking, you may also be expected to complete a passenger locator form* and/or a pre-travel health questionnaire. If you are exempt from vaccines, you will need to speak to the cruise line prior to booking.
*You will need to include the PCR order number on this form, so have this to hand. Failure to complete the form correctly will result in you being refused boarding.
Passengers travelling by air to reach the cruise departure point will need to check the country’s entry requirements on the government website. Depending on where you are planning to travel you may be required to produce proof of a negative COVID test (taken within 72 hours prior to departure using a private company) and proof of vaccinations. It is important to remember that whilst you will not necessarily need to be double vaccinated to enter the country your cruise ship is departing from, it may be a requirement for the actual cruise.
Prior to COVID-19, passengers were encouraged to treat the ship as if it was their own, however, various restrictions are now in place. Depending on the cruise line you have booked with, it may be expected that you wear a face covering in all indoor areas (unless medically exempt), adhere to social distancing guidelines, pre-book activities and dining, telephone reception as opposed to visiting, expect table service as opposed to buffets and self-service dining, ordering via an app where possible, etc. Each cruise line will have its protocols on its website, or you can speak to the company directly.
Cruise lines have isolation plans in place for passengers which are designed to contain the spread of the COVID-19 as much as possible. You can ask about isolation plans when you book your cruise.
Cruises have been adapted to still give passengers the best experience. Many ships will be docking at ports of countries that follow the same protocols as the cruise line, for example: if the ship is docking at a country that requires you to be double vaccinated, it is likely you will need to be double vaccinated to board the ship in the first place. It is important you check the cruise line’s itinerary to make sure it meets your expectations but be aware that this could change with little or no notice depending on the COVID situation in each country.
Recently the government removed all but 7 countries from the red list. This means you are no longer required to quarantine on return to the UK unless you are visiting one of the red list counties: it is highly unlikely they will be included in your cruise itinerary. However, if you have planned a Caribbean cruise do check that the cruise ship isn’t scheduled to visit the Dominican Republic as this country remains red for now.
If you are double vaccinated, you will need to take a PCR test (this must be booked through a private company as NHS PCR tests are not accepted) on day two of your arrival back to the UK. If you are not fully vaccinated, you will need to isolate for 10 days and take a PCR test on day 2 and day 8.
For general information on cruising and the cover you need, click here