In the last few weeks, many major cruise lines have abandoned their Covid-19 testing and vaccination requirements. The changes spread through the industry like a tidal wave, washing out pandemic-inspired regulations from the CDC that have dictated the cruise industry's return to the seas.
On many family-friendly lines, gone are the rules that most passengers be vaccinated and take a medically supervised test to prove they are Covid free.
Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and others have rolled back their requirements, welcoming back unvaccinated adults and children on most sailings
I spent a lot of time talking to agents about what this development was like for them, and all of them said it was like a dam bursting. Clients who were opposed to vaccinating themselves or their children have long wanted to cruise, and now they were free to book again, some with the FCCs they have yet to redeem. And they were ready.
A big change is the relaxation of pre-embarkation testing rules, which in many cases required passengers to test negative via a proctored testing process.
Some clients were so excited about cruise lines rolling back testing requirements that they canceled their reservations on one line to book on another with more relaxed rules. I heard that most often about Disney Cruise Line. It has relaxed its vaccination policy, but only to a degree: unvaccinated kids under 12 years old (up from 5 years old) can sail beginning Sept. 2, but everyone must still take a Covid test within two days of sailing.
With other family-oriented lines dropping both vaccination and testing requirements, agents said their clients wanted out of their Disney cruises in favor of a vacation with less hassle.
DeeAna Archer, owner of Texas-based Archer Luxury Travel, told me her clients have canceled at least $40,000 in Disney cruises and have rebooked them elsewhere.
"It's easier," Archer said. "When you talk about a family of four, five or six, [testing] adds up to a lot of money." Her clients would rather sail on a line where they don't have to worry about that testing or the risk that they'll test positive at the last minute. "Do you know how terrifying it is to spend that kind of money on airfare and find out you have Covid and now you can't go? I was a nervous wreck about it."
Disney's regulations are largely aligned with recommendations by the CDC, which encourages ships to maintain a high Covid-19 vaccination rate and continue to require pre-embarkation testing. When I asked Disney Cruise Line about their policy and the philosophy behind it, the line declined to comment.