6/30/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Many people, including older adults, are beginning to travel once again, and cruises will be high on their list of ways to do it. Near the end of May, Celebrity Cruises became the first cruise line to have one of its ships receive permission from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to resume operations out of a U.S. port. Others, including Carnival and Royal Caribbean, will soon follow. But how will these initial cruises post COVID compare to the pre-COVID experience?

According to travel experts, it will depend on whether or not you are vaccinated. Here’s what you should know before setting out over the open seas.

Cruise operators have two options

Under the CDC’s latest set of guidelines, cruise lines can do one of the following:

To get approval from the CDC to sail ships where fewer than 95% of passengers will be vaccinated, they must run a simulated voyage with volunteer passengers to gauge their ability to manage the post-COVID era.

Or they can choose only to allow vaccinated passengers onboard the ship. Most cruise lines already require crew members to be vaccinated.

What can you expect with each of these options?

If a vaccinated person chooses a cruise that isn’t requiring people to be inoculated against COVID, they might have specific areas where they can relax and take their mask off. The CDC allows cruise operators to designate portions of these “general-access” ships to be only for fully vaccinated people, including casinos, bars, or restaurants. Although no cruise lines have announced plans to use this option yet, it’s likely that some will.

In contrast, vaccinated people going on a cruise where all passengers and staff are fully vaccinated will find their cruise much like it was before the pandemic. The CDC’s latest guidelines for cruise ships with vaccinated passengers mirror the new recommendations the agency has made on land. Just as fully-vaccinated Americans may return to everyday life and don’t need to wear masks or social distance in most settings, the same is now confirmed for them on cruise ships with a 100% vaccination requirement.

Vaccinated passengers will not be required to get COVID tests before or after their cruise. And travelers won’t need to use their masks during long meals, at the casino, during a spa treatment, or while taking in a show on the ship.

Nothing is carved in stone

Cruise passengers should be prepared for circumstances and requirements to change for the foreseeable future – even while they are on board.

For example, a country might decide to stop international arrivals before the ship gets to the port-of-call. Also, travelers cannot expect policies to be consistent from one ship to another. Whatever happens on the first sailings could be modified for in the future.

The CDC released its first guidance on cruises post COVID-19 last October. Since then, it has revised the policies on several occasions as the pandemic’s circumstances changed. There is little reason to believe they will not be modified again in the future.

Mobile apps will take on additional significance for cruises post COVID

Even before the pandemic, cruise lines were increasing their use of technology in the form of mobile apps that allowed passengers to use their phones to open their staterooms or order a drink.

Today, cruise lines have apps that allow guests to schedule a time to board the ship. This feature eliminates crowding in parking lots, drop-off spots, and terminals, facilitating physical distancing from the car to the stateroom.

Some cruise operators are reinventing the muster drill, during which safety and emergency procedures are disseminated to the passengers. In the past, these drills were held in person, with most of the ship’s guests assembled.

Post-COVID, passengers on Royal Caribbean ships will use “eMuster technology” in place of the in-person muster drill. Passengers get the information they need on their mobile app or on the stateroom TV to complete the muster. The new procedure reduces physical interaction.

Some cruise lines in Europe have gone even further with technology, implementing so-called contact-tracking devices among their passengers to monitor their actions if a passenger falls ill.

Related: 5 Reasons to Try a River Cruise!

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff