What You Need to Know: Pre-Cruise Testing Requirements

A detailed guide to cruising requirements by cruise line. - Photo by Canva

As of September, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends travelers going on a cruise get tested for COVID-19 within two days before boarding. As a result, cruise lines have revised their testing procedures for all passengers regardless of vaccination status. The majority of lines now state that all guests over the age of 12 must now take a PCR or Antigen COVID test no more than two days prior to cruising and present their results at the pier before getting on the ship.

Due to these new tight timelines for passengers, cruise lines have begun to share suggested testing resources for passengers to meet this deadline. At Cruiseline.com, we’ve rounded up the information from the major cruise lines to help you understand the new policies and potential testing resources.

Carnival Cruise Line 

  • Testing Policy  
    • All guests cruising with Carnival must present a negative antigen test or a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) COVID-19 test at check-in, taken at least 48-hours prior to sailing date (for example, if the sailing is on Saturday, the test may be taken any time from Wednesday through Friday, but not on the morning of embarkation). Guests may also take the test on the morning of embarkation, so long as they are guaranteed to receive their test results before their time of check-in. Test results must be presented at time of check-in along with proof of full vaccination.
    • Unvaccinated guests must take an additional antigen test at embarkation, and test again within 24 hours of debarkation on all cruises longer than 4 days. A $150 per person charge will be added to the individual’s account. 
    • What Happens if I don’t have my results on time? “Guests who are unable to provide the required proof of vaccination or negative PCR/antigen test results will not be able to board and will not receive a refund.” 
  • Pre-Cruise Testing Resources - As the CDC testing guideline was announced, Carnival shared the possibility of on-site testing at its terminals. However, the line has decided,  “the logistics of making this service widely available to a large number of guests does not make this a viable option.” They have shared the following alternative testing resources:
    • Self-administered telehealth COVID-19 tests for vaccinated guests will satisfy the pre-cruise testing requirement. The test must have Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, and the self-test process must happen under live supervision on a video call with a telehealth representative. The telehealth provider must issue you a result document that includes all the necessary information. The resulting document must be presented at the time of check-in. 
      • Fully vaccinated guests may consider using the Abbott BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test which includes a viral antigen home test and the services of an eMed telemedicine professional who will supervise the administration of the test and provide your results in 15 minutes. Test kits ship to all 50 states and arrive in three business days.
    • Carnival Corporation has established an agreement with Quest Diagnostics to facilitate access to pre-cruise COVID-19 viral testing. Guests may schedule testing with Quest Diagnostics at more than 1,500 locations. Appointments are required and may be scheduled online via Quest Diagnostic's website. Results are typically available within 48 hours, but Quest advises that turnaround time can fluctuate. 
    • Guests can contact their nearest health center, pharmacy, state health department, or transiting airport to learn about COVID-19 testing availability.

Celebrity Cruises

  • Testing Policy 
    • For sailings through October 31, 2021, on the Celebrity Millennium sailing from Seattle, Celebrity Edge and Celebrity Equinox sailing from Fort Lauderdale, and Celebrity Summit sailing from Miami, all vaccinated guests are required to present a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or NAAT) result at the time of embarkation. This test may be taken as either as an Antigen or PCR test, conducted within two days of boarding the vessel. Each guest is responsible for making their own arrangements with an accredited testing provider as well as covering all associated costs. 
    • All unvaccinated children (between the ages of two and eleven) will be required to bring a negative Antigen or PCR test result conducted within three days of embarkation. 
    • COVID tests must be supervised by a health professional. You must receive a valid results document from your test provider that includes provider name, your name, the date the test was taken, type of test, and your negative result. This can be a printed document, email, or telehealth app notification. Handwritten doctor’s notes will not be accepted. Telehealth testing at home will only be accepted when it meets certain guidelines. 
    • Additional tests will be administered onboard, free of charge if required for homeport, or home country re-entry.
  • Pre-Cruise Testing Resources - Celebrity has provided the following recommended resources for guests to help find an approved testing provider: 
    • Telehealth self-home tests are accepted by Celebrity if they meet the following conditions: 
      • The test must have Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.
      • The self-test process must happen under live supervision on a video call with a telehealth representative.
      • Telehealth provider must issue you a result document that includes all the necessary information.
      • Two tests that meet these parameters are the Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 Ag Card Test or the eMed Covid-19 Test with Video Observation Services
    • Most local pharmacy chains offer COVID-19 testing, and most county or state websites can help with locating a local public testing site. Guests can also go to a doctor’s office, diagnostic lab, or telehealth provider for a test.
    • For fully vaccinated guests living in the United States., a home-test kit from Optum is available for purchase on the Celebrity website. Under this test, you can complete your pre-cruise test at home with the help of video supervision by a Certified Guide. Kits are within three business days, however Celebrity recommends placing an order at least a full week before the day the guest plans to take the test. Validated test results are delivered within 15 minutes

Disney Cruise Line

  • Testing Policy 
    • In order to sail, Guests 12 years of age and older must be vaccinated and upload their proof of vaccination to Disney’s Safe Passage website
    • Guests 11 years of age and younger are not required to be vaccinated but must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result (paid for by the guest) taken between 3 days and 24 hours before your sail date. The test should be a rapid PCR test or a lab-based PCR test. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted. In order to sail, all unvaccinated Guests must upload their proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results to the Safe Passage website
    • All guests, regardless of age and vaccination status, are required to take a COVID-19 test (paid for by Disney Cruise Line and administered by Inspire Diagnostics) at the terminal before boarding. 
    • Any guests with positive COVID-19 test results, including those in their travel party, will be denied boarding. Guests may also be denied boarding if Inspire Diagnostics has not received the required documentation and/or pre-arrival test results needed to sail. 
  • Pre-Cruise Testing Resources - Disney Cruise Line has provided guests with multiple options for completing their pre-trip COVID-19 testing: 
    • Guests (residing in the United States) can purchase a pre-trip, at-home PCR test directly from the Safe Passage website by Inspire Diagnostics. Tests must be completed and mailed back 3 days before sailing, or dropped off at a Central Florida testing location offered by Inspire Diagnostics. 
    • Guests can use the Safe Passage website to purchase and schedule a pre-trip test to be performed at one of the Inspire Diagnostics testing locations set up for Disney Cruise Line Guests near the cruise terminal, one to 3 days before their sail date. Results take 24 to 48 hours to process and will be sent to the email address provided during the registration on the Safe Passage website.
    • Guests may obtain their PCR test from any independent testing provider. If submitting a test sample to an independent provider by mail, overnight is recommended. Guests must upload test results from an independent testing provider to the Safe Passage website and follow the prompts. 

Holland America Line

  • Testing Policy 
    • All guests sailing with Holland America on any cruise through Dec. 31, 2021, must present proof of a negative, medically observed, viral COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen). This negative test result must be taken within 2 days of their embarkation. 
    • The following formats are acceptable proofs of a negative COVID-19 test: paper test results (original only, no photocopies accepted), digital or emailed COVID-19 test results, or record of COVID-19 testing from a healthcare provider including original digital email notification or personal electronic health record.
    • To board the ship, each guest must present a negative COVID test result as well as proof of COVID-19 vaccination. 
    • What happens if I don’t have my COVID-19 test results back in time before I board? Holland America has provided the following response to this question, “Starting Sept 13th, proof of negative test result needs to be taken within 2 days of embarkation. We require ALL guests to produce a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) taken within the required timeframe. We realize some of our guests are having a challenge getting a pre-cruise COVID-19 test. We are working to set up mobile testing sites at all our embarkation homeports to conduct a rapid test the day before or day of your departure. We are still finalizing the details and will announce those shortly. You should consider this as a backup alternative should you not receive your test results back in time. If you bring proof of testing without results to the pier Holland America Line will test you at no charge. Guests who arrive without a negative test result will experience delayed embarkation and risk denied boarding and subject to quarantine should a positive result be returned.” 
  • Pre-Cruise Testing Resources - Holland America Line has provided the following resources for passengers to complete pre-cruise testing requirements: 
    • For U.S. guests, Holland America Line has partnered with Quest Diagnostics to provide a COVID-19 test appointment, with results delivered within 48 hours. 
    • You can also contact your nearest health center, pharmacy, state health department, or transiting airport to learn more about their availability for COVID-19 testing.

MSC Cruises

  • Testing Policy  
    • All fully vaccinated guests must provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test at the pier. The test must be taken within 2 days of departure and the guest is responsible for the test and cost. Fully vaccinated guests must provide either a negative RT-PCR test, negative NAAT or negative antigen test. 
    • Any not fully vaccinated guest 2-11 years old must provide documentation of a negative RT-PCR, or other nucleic amplification tests (NAAT) at the pier (antigen is not accepted). The test must be taken no more than 3 days before arriving at the terminal for embarkation and the guest is responsible for the cost. 
    • Tests must be taken with an accredited test provider (drugstore chain, diagnostic lab or accredited at-home telehealth provider) and taken no more than 2 days before arriving at the terminal for embarkation. Guests will be required to show their negative test results upon arriving at the pier. The results can be printed out or can be presented on your phone, such as the email result from your test provider. Test results will need to clearly show the type of test (Antigen, RT-PCR or NAAT), testing location/provider’s name, a negative result, the guest’s name, and date and time the test was taken. Costs associated are the guests' responsibility.
  • Pre-Cruise Testing Resources - MSC will accept telehealth self-tests, and have provided the following resources to ensure these tests meet their requirements:
    • The test must have Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. FDA
    • The self-test process must happen under live supervision on a video call with a telehealth representative
    • The telehealth provider must issue you a result document that includes all the necessary information
    • One test that meets these parameters is the supervised Abbott BinaxNow COVID-19 Ag Card Test available through the Abbott Navica app, or purchased at eMed.com or optum.com. Please note that test kits purchased online must be shipped to your home, and may take up to 5 business days to arrive after you order. 

Norwegian Cruise Line

  • Testing Policy  
    • Norwegian strongly encourages all guests to take a COVID-19 PCR test within 72-hours prior to their sail date as an extra precaution. If a PCR test is not readily available, then we encourage guests to at a minimum take a COVID-19 antigen test, prior to travel.
    • All guests will be required to take a COVID-19 antigen test, administered and paid for by the cruise line, at the pier prior to boarding and receive a negative result. 
    • Guests are responsible for complying with all local health and safety requirements which may include additional testing. If your departure point is outside of the United States, the line strongly encourages you to check the testing policy of the country prior to departure. 
    • Norwegian will send an embarkation letter to all guests prior to the date of departure. This will include all the tips on what to know prior to leaving home and for arrival at the terminal. 

Princess Cruises 

  • Testing Policy  
    • Princess Cruises requires a COVID-19 test to be taken 2 days prior to the sailing date for all guests over 12. 
    • Guests who received a vaccination exemption are still required to take a negative PCR test within 2 days prior to embarkation and will be tested again in the terminal prior to boarding the ship and again within 24 hours of debarkation (for itineraries five days or longer). Unvaccinated guests will continue to be charged $150 per person for testing and administration.
    • What happens if I don’t get my results on time? Princess provided the following information to guests with this matter, “We understand that it may be difficult for some of our guests to find testing that can provide results within a 2-day turnaround. Accordingly, for guests who did not receive their test results within 2 days prior to their embarkation, we are working to set up mobile testing sites near our embarkation ports to conduct COVID-19 testing the day before, or day of, your cruise departure. The company providing the testing will charge a per-person fee. Providers will not accept insurance, but you will be provided a receipt should you wish to submit the cost to your insurance carrier. Please consider this as a backup alternative should you not be able to make arrangements prior to leaving home.”
  • Pre-Cruise Testing Resources - Princess Cruises has provided these resources for pre-cruise testing options: 
    • For U.S. guests, Princess is partnered with Quest Diagnostics to provide COVID-19 test appointments, with test results delivered within 48 hours after taking your test. 
    • Princess also recommends guests contact your nearest health center, pharmacy, state health department, or transiting airport to learn more about their availability for COVID-19 testing.
    • Additionally, Princess has also partnered with Optum so that U.S.-based vaccinated guests can order an FDA-authorized at-home antigen test kit, shipped to your door in 3 business days or less. These at-home tests include a personal virtually video-supervised visit with an eMed Certified Guide through telehealth services. These guides will help you properly administer the test and verify the results, within 15 minutes. The lab result report is delivered via email and can be printed or displayed on your mobile device during check-in. Please place your order with enough time to be shipped prior to your boarding. 

Royal Caribbean

  • Testing Policy   
    • Vaccinated guests age 12 and older must show a negative COVID-19 test result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 2 days before boarding day. 
    • Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 must show a negative test result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 3 days before boarding day. Kids’ pre-cruise test cannot be taken on boarding day, because that may affect the sample taken during the kids’ test at the terminal.
    • Guests under 2 years of age do not need to complete a pre-cruise test. 
  • Pre-Cruise Testing Resources - The following options have been presented by Royal Caribbean for guests cruising with the line:
    • At-home testing kits: Royal Caribbean guests that are fully vaccinated can now order at-home antigen test kits, shipped right to your door anywhere in the U.S. Complete your pre-cruise test at home, with live video supervised by an eMed Certified Guide. Get your results in 15 minutes. The tests are available in a pack of two for $69.99 or a pack of three for $99.99, which includes the test kits, expedited shipping, and live virtual visit.
    • Boarding Day Testing at Port: This is a limited option for vaccinated guests only. This method is by appointment only. Guests will have to wait up to an hour for results outside of the terminal. 

Virgin Voyages 

  • Testing Policy - 
    • Guests on Virgin Voyages will be required to take an antigen test before boarding. The testing will occur at the terminal and will be provided free of charge by Virgin Voyages, so Sailors will need to arrive 2 hours prior to their scheduled embarkation time to ensure time for the test. 
    • All guests are accountable for making necessary COVID-testing plans after disembarkation from the ship. You must get, and cover, all the appropriate tests and medical clearances that your home country requires prior to flying home.
    • At this time, Virgin Voyages does not have a pre-cruise COVID testing requirement (other than the required test at the pier prior to boarding) and has not provided resources for pre-cruise testing. 

These testing requirements may change over time. We will continually provide updates to this story if they become available. 

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