As restrictions across the UK continue to ease, many are looking forward to a much needed holiday, ready to recharge and enjoy some sun after an incredibly difficult year. But after a year away, holidays as we know them have changed, particularly cruises, with many new processes in place to ensure passenger and crew safety. With this in mind, we understand that our customers may be unsure of what measures will be in place both on board and ashore, so we take a look at what to expect from a cruise holiday after COVID-19.

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Lady wearing mask on board a cruise ship


What to expect before you go on your cruise after COVID-19

Before heading off on your first cruise after COVID-19, there are a few requirements that passengers will need to meet to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone else on board. 

Vaccinations: which cruise lines require a COVID-19 vaccination 

In order to enjoy your initial post COVID-19 cruise, the majority of cruise lines will require passengers to adhere to their cruise lines’ vaccine policy. 

“Given the advanced progress of the UK vaccination programme, and strong expressed preference on the part of guests for [our] limited series of UK coastal cruises, [initial] sailings will be for UK resident COVID-19 vaccinated guests only.” - P&O Cruises 

While the policies may vary between operators, the fundamental requirements are that passengers will need to: 

  • Be fully vaccinated with a currently approved vaccine (unless under the age of 18)
  • Be able to show proof of vaccination including the dates administered
  • Have received their second vaccine dose AT LEAST seven-days prior to boarding. 

Cruise lines requiring full vaccination for the initial return to cruising programme (excluding under 18s where applicable) include:

Failure to provide proof of vaccination will result in passengers being denied boarding and any costs incurred will be at their own expense. 

The following cruise lines DO NOT require passengers to be fully vaccinated*:

*Correct at time of writing (16th May 2021)

COVID-19 testing and health assessments

Prior to boarding, some cruise lines require passengers to provide proof of at least one negative lateral flow or PCR test. While cruise lines such as Fred. Olsen require guests to take a test eight and three days prior to embarkation and then again at the terminal when boarding, others such as MSC require only one negative test result taken 72-hours prior to boarding and only applies to those who haven’t yet been fully vaccinated. All passengers will, however, need to undergo health screening at the terminal, including a COVID-19 swab test and a contactless temperature check, prior to embarking. Crew will be tested regularly while on board. 

All cruises will require guests to complete a health declaration prior to boarding to confirm they have met all requirements such as not displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or having been in contact with someone who has within 14-days of embarkation. 

Do I require specific COVID-19 insurance in order to cruise?

While it may not be a requirement to have specific COVID-19 insurance cover for your cruise, we recommend that passengers look for a suitable insurance policy that will protect them in the event they cannot travel due to the virus. 

What to expect on board your cruise ship after COVID-19

After over a year of being in dock, the majority of cruise lines are offering UK staycation cruises for their return to cruising, but the new measures introduced on board are likely to stay in place for the foreseeable future, whether you’ll be sailing around the British Isles or island hopping around the Mediterranean, and are designed specifically to protect the health and well-being of everyone on the cruise ship. 

While new protocols have been put in place with the help of medical professionals from all around the globe, passengers are reminded to keep an eye on the current measures in the event that alternative plans need to be put in place, or indeed, relaxed. Many of the standard hygiene protocols will remain, including hand sanitising stations around the ship and thorough sanitisation procedures of all areas. But what other measures can you expect when embarking on your first post COVID-19 cruise

Enhanced cleaning and ventilation

While cleaning on board a cruise ship is already very stringent, additional measures have been put in place across all cruise lines. 

These include more frequent sanitisation and enhance processes. In addition, the majority of cruise lines have improved their on board ventilation systems to ensure cleaner air for passengers and crew. 

“We have enhanced our on board ventilation systems to provide improved filtration and increased fresh air on board.” - Cunard 

Reduced on board occupancy 

As cruise lines return to cruising after COVID-19, many, including smaller boutique style cruise lines including Trade Wind Voyages, will be sailing with a reduced occupancy, at least for the first few months. This means that there will be more on board space to ensure social distancing rules are followed and allow crew numbers to remain to ensure the same quality service is offered to passengers. 

Dining on board after COVID-19

One of the most enticing aspects of cruising is without a doubt the cuisine in which passengers are offered throughout the course of their voyage. From fine dining to the much loved on board buffet, most cruise lines offer a large selection of dining options, which allows for a more spread out approach to the standard seating options that cruise goers have grown accustomed to. In order to continue offering a quality dining experience, cruise lines such as Saga are increasing the number of al fresco dining options to allow for more passengers to dine at certain periods throughout the day.

While buffet dining will remain on board most vessels, it may not be the same experience that passengers are used to. Some cruise lines will be offering a ‘served buffet’, where the options remain the same but rather than self-service, passengers will approach the buffet and be served their selection by crew members behind the counters. Other cruise lines may offer waiter service in buffet restaurants, with passengers selecting from a pre-prepared ‘menu’.

For those who enjoy the fine dining experiences offered on board, rest assured that the high standards you're used to will continue to be met, with slight adjustments that will likely come as a welcome change for passengers. While certain cruise lines have never required passengers to commit to a table for the duration of their cruise, offering flexible eating times and seating options, it will now be more likely that passengers will need to ‘book’ a table for their meals or have a pre-allocated slot assigned to them when they embark, creating ‘dining bubbles’ with a maximum of six individuals per table. Following this process will allow cruise lines to spread dining times out and therefore reduce the amount of people in a restaurant at one time. 

Snacks and drinks will continue to be available on board throughout the day but social distancing and PPE requirements will need to be adhered to.

Personal Protective Equipment on board after COVID-19

At the time of writing, all major cruise lines are advising passengers that they will be required to wear PPE throughout the duration of their cruise

“All guests and crew will be required to wear a mask on board. Specifically, guests should wear face masks in nearly all public settings regardless of physical distancing measures” - Royal Caribbean

This will include:

  • During check-in and departure while at the cruise terminal (except when going through passport control or having their identity checked)
  • While on any shore excursions 
  • While on board their cruise ship unless eating or drinking.

Passengers will not be required to wear a mask or face covering during the following activities: 

  • While inside their cabin
  • While using any of the on board recreational facilities including swimming pools, gyms and saunas
  • While having certain spa treatments such as facials
  • While in outdoor areas UNLESS social distancing cannot be maintained.

While this may change following further Government announcements in the UK, it’s worth noting that even if UK restrictions are relaxed, cruises to overseas destinations may continue to require passengers to adhere to PPE requirements.

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On board Entertainment

To ensure all passengers can enjoy the on board entertainment, additional performances have been added to the schedule on the majority of cruise lines, so rather than having just the one evening performance or an on board show, there may now be an additional matinee performance added. When attending an on board performance of any kind, guests are likely to be shown to seats by the crew rather than selecting for themselves to ensure social distancing can be adhered to. 

As an initial step to ensure that the Government’s restrictions are met on the first cruises to sail after COVID-19, most cruise lines will not be offering services such as kids clubs and dance hosts to ensure ‘household’ bubbles are not broken. These services will, however, return once the Government restrictions are fully lifted later in the year. 

What to expect when going ashore after COVID-19

Most cruise lines have introduced a range of carefully selected, organised shore excursions that have been vigorously tested to ensure that passengers can explore every destination safely. This does unfortunately mean that, unlike previous cruises you may have been on, passengers will no longer be allowed to venture ashore without having  reserved a place on an arranged excursion and no ‘free exploring’ will be allowed. 

Find out more 

If you’d like to find out more about the cruises we offer, take a look around our website or call our knowledgeable team on 01737 646412.