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Norwegian cruises to drop vaccination requirement, ease testing rules

Starting in September, fully vaccinated customers on Norwegian Cruise Line will no longer have to test before boarding

The Norwegian Pearl cruise ship. (Marta Lavandier/AP/Washington Post illustration)

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings will end its vaccine requirement for customers and loosen coronavirus testing rules next month, the company announced Monday.

Starting Sept. 3, fully vaccinated travelers who are 12 or older will no longer have to test before boarding a ship on Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Travelers in that age group who are unvaccinated or who do not show proof of vaccination will be allowed onboard as long as they present a negative PCR or antigen test taken in the 72 hours before boarding. Children under 12 will have no testing or vaccination requirements.

Requirements could still vary depending on local regulations at different ports, “including but not limited to Canada, Greece and Bermuda,” the announcement said.

“Our long-awaited revisions to our testing and vaccination requirements bring us closer in line with the rest of society, which has learned to adapt and live with COVID-19,” Norwegian President and CEO Frank Del Rio said in a news release.

According to Norwegian’s “Sail Safe” protocols, trips through Sept. 2 will still require all crew and all guests 12 and over to be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before a departure date. Until the new policy takes effect, the protocols say, all guests age 2 and older will still have to present a negative test before a trip, regardless of their vaccination status. Kids between 2 and 11 will still have to show a negative test (antigen if vaccinated, PCR if unvaccinated) through Sept. 2.

Carnival, Royal Caribbean cruises loosen coronavirus testing rules

Norwegian’s moves to loosen pandemic-era protocols follow similar decisions by industry leaders Carnival and Royal Caribbean, which each announced last month that they were dropping testing for vaccinated travelers on some voyages that last less than a week.

About a month ago, Norwegian announced it would stop requiring pre-cruise testing in August “unless required by local regulations,” which kept testing on ships in U.S. waters because the company had opted in to standards set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC ended its covid-19 program for U.S. cruise ships July 18, removing outbreak data for individual cruise ships from its website and leaving companies to set their own standards. The public health agency recommends customers get a coronavirus test no more than three days before a cruise, regardless of their vaccination status.