After more than a year without cruises, it looks like vacations at sea may finally become available for U.S. residents in the Caribbean and elsewhere this summer as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. But unlike before COVID-19, cruisers won’t be able to hop on ships in U.S. ports just yet. Instead, they’ll have to fly to the Caribbean if they want to cruise in June, July or August. Several cruise lines are selling summer cruises to U.S. residents in the Mediterranean as well, though some still lack approvals from countries. There’s progress though: In late April, the European Commission announced it would allow American tourists who have been vaccinated to visit Europe this summer, though no timeline was given.
As of early April, vaccinated people can safely travel domestically by air, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the health agency’s Level 4 warning — it’s highest — against cruise travel remains in place, citing the increased risk of getting COVID-19 on a cruise ship. The CDC recommends all people avoid travel on cruise ships worldwide. Cruising in the Caribbean at this stage in the pandemic is “a bad idea,” according to Dr. Michael Callahan, director of the Clinical Translation, Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, who worked on the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess COVID-19 evacuations last year. He’s particularly worried about COVID-19 variants emerging in the Caribbean and the potential for cruise travel to spread those variants to countries with low vaccination rates and testing and hospital capacity. Though testing before travel and requiring vaccinations can reduce risk to cruise passengers and crew, the protocols do not create an immunity bubble, he said, noting that tests and vaccines will not block everyone who has the virus.
What if I’m vaccinated?
If someone decides to take a cruise and is fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends they get a PCR test three to five days before the cruise.
What if I’m not vaccinated?
If you’re not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends getting a PCR test three to five days before the cruise; afterward, you should stay home for seven days even if you test negative.
WHERE AND WHEN CAN I CRUISE?
Beginning in June, Royal Caribbean Group plans to launch seven-night cruises on its Adventure of the Seas ship from Nassau, The Bahamas, visiting Cozumel, Mexico, Grand Bahama Island and the company’s private island in the Bahamas and seven-night cruises on Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Millennium ship from Phillipsburg, St. Maarten, visiting Curaçao, Aruba and Barbados. In July, Royal Caribbean Group plans to launch seven-night cruises from Bermuda on its Vision of the Seas ship visiting its private island in the Bahamas and Carnival Corporation’s Seabourn plans to launch six-night and 13-night cruises from Barbados on its Seabourn Odyssey ship visiting Grenada, St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, St. Maarten, Jost Van Dyke and Tortola, British Virgin Islands. Also in June, Windstar plans to launch seven-night cruises on its Star Breeze ship from St. Maarten visiting Anguilla; Jost van Dyke, Soper’s Hole, Tortola, Norman Island and Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands; and Saint Barthélemy. In July, Crystal Cruises plans to launch seven-night cruises on its Crystal Serenity ship from Nassau and Bimini, The Bahamas, visiting Bahamian islands of Harbour Island, Great Exuma, San Salvador Island and Long Island.
In August, Norwegian Cruise Line plans to launch six-night cruises on its Norwegian Joy ship from Montego Bay, Jamaica, visiting its private beach in Belize, Roatán, Honduras, Cozumel, Mexico and Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and six-night cruises on its Norwegian Gem ship from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, visiting Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten and Antigua. In addition, several U.S. cruise lines are booking Americans on cruises in the Mediterranean. To date, only a handful of Western European countries have said they will allow Americans to cruise — though restrictions may soon be loosened for those who are vaccinated.