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Do children need to be vaccinated to cruise? All but 1 major line say no

Aug. 28, 2022
8 min read
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If you're planning a family cruise, you might be able to remove that trip to the vaccine clinic from your pre-cruise checklist. That's because seven of the eight major cruise lines have removed their vaccine requirements for passengers on most sailings.

When the major cruise lines began to return ships to service in spring 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had already approved emergency use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for adults and kids ages 12 and older. Most cruise lines announced rules requiring vaccinations for all travelers who were eligible, with several allowing exemptions for children too young to get the shot.

In late October of 2021, the FDA extended the emergency authorization of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to kids as young as 5 years. Following that announcement, several of the industry's most popular cruise lines amended their rules to say that even young children had to show proof that they've had their shots before they can sail.

Now that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has removed its opt-in COVID-19 guidelines for cruise ships, most major cruise lines have changed course and waived vaccine requirements in certain scenarios. On specific sailings that still require inoculation as a condition of boarding, many lines offer limited exemptions for children younger than 5 and, in fewer cases, for children 11 and younger, even though vaccines are now available for kids as young as 6 months.

Here, I'll recap the eight biggest cruise lines' vaccination policies for children and teens.

In all cases below, "fully vaccinated" means that passengers have received their final dose of a World Health Organization- or FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine (not including boosters, which mean you're "up to date" versus "fully vaccinated") at least 15 days prior to sailing. Because the U.S. does not currently issue official certificates of recovery, lines do not allow a previous COVID-19 diagnosis to take the place of vaccination unless otherwise noted. Whenever possible, U.S. passengers should show their original, physical vaccine cards. Currently, none of the major cruise lines require boosters for eligible kids.

Also note that unvaccinated passengers are required to provide negative test results before sailing on most lines that will allow them to sail without exemptions.

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Carnival Cruise Line

Effective September 6, 2022, children will no longer be required to be vaccinated on voyages of 15 nights or fewer (except sailings departing from Australia). On sailings of 16 nights or more, or those that depart from Down Under, all children who haven't been immunized can apply for exemptions. Vaccinations could also be required in certain destinations, based on local regulations.

See Carnival's Have Fun. Be Safe. policies for more details.

Celebrity Cruises

Starting September 5, 2022, Celebrity will allow everyone — including children — to sail from most ports, regardless of vaccination status, as long as they meet local testing requirements. On sailings from the U.S., children 5 and younger do not need to test whether they are vaccinated or not; on voyages from Europe, passengers 12 and younger do not need to test. If departing from the U.S., children 6 and older will need to test only if they are not fully vaccinated, but negative results from unproctored tests are now accepted.

See Celebrity's Healthy at Sea page for additional information.

Disney Cruise Line

Beginning September 2, 2022, Disney Cruise Line requires all kids 12 and older to provide proof of full inoculation as a condition of sailing. Through September 22, 2022, children who have their shots will have to provide negative results from a PCR or proctored antigen test taken no more than 48 hours before embarkation; unvaccinated guests must provide negative results from a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to boarding and take a second test at the pier before boarding. Beginning September 23, 2022 (November 7, 2022, for Disney Magic), fully vaccinated kiddos will no longer have to provide negative test results in order to sail, and those who don't have their shots will no longer be required to undergo a second test at the pier.

Check out Disney Cruise Line's Know Before You Go section to learn more.

Holland America Line

From September 6, 2022, Holland America will allow unvaccinated passengers to sail on cruises of 15 nights or fewer without filing exemption requests. Exceptions include long cruises and sailings that call on or sail to/from Australia, Bermuda, Canada and Greece, where vaccines are still necessary.

View Holland America's Travel Well FAQ for details.


MSC Cruises

Effective September 1, 2022, U.S. passengers (including children) sailing with MSC Cruises are no longer required to be vaccinated before sailing to the Caribbean or Bahamas. Fully vaccinated kids will still be required to show proof of inoculation at embarkation, and those who are unvaccinated will need to provide a negative PCR test result that's no more than three days old. Fully vaccinated cruisers will not have to test prior to sailing. Children 12 and older from countries outside the U.S. will still need to be fully immunized, and all passengers 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status, will still need to provide negative test results before embarking.

See MSC's What to Know Before You Go literature to better plan your voyage.

Norwegian Cruise Line

From September 3, 2022, Norwegian Cruise Line passengers will not have to provide proof of vaccination. Those 12 and older who do provide it will be exempt from pre-cruise testing. Cruisers 11 and younger are exempt from both providing proof of vaccination and from testing.

To read more, visit Norwegian's Sail Safe page.

Princess Cruises

Beginning September 6, 2022, Princess passengers, including children, on voyages of 15 nights or fewer will no longer be required to be vaccinated in order to sail. Travelers who show their vaccine cards will be exempt from testing. Exceptions include Panama Canal transits, ocean crossings and other specialty voyages. On sailings of 16 nights or more, passengers, including children, will need to show proof of vaccination.

To learn more, read up on Princess' Cruise Health requirements.


Royal Caribbean

Starting September 5, 2022, all guests can sail with Royal Caribbean, regardless of vaccination status. Unvaccinated passengers can cruise with negative results from any commercially available test, including self-tests. No testing is required for vaccinated passengers on voyages of nine nights or fewer. On sailings of 10 nights or more, all travelers must provide negative results from any test taken within three days of embarkation. For all sailings, passengers 5 years and younger have no vaccine or testing requirements. (Due to local regulations, sailings that visit Australia, Bermuda, Canada and Singapore still require passengers to be vaccinated.)

Further information can be found on Royal Caribbean's FAQ page.

For a more comprehensive list of cruise line vaccination policies for cruisers of all ages, visit our line-by-line guide to cruise vaccination requirements. For information on testing for a cruise, check out our piece on pre- and post-cruise testing.

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Featured image by AFP via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.