All your Covid cruise questions answered – from positive tests to mask rules

After being rocked by waves of coronavirus over the past two years, it finally appears that calmer waters are beckoning the cruise industry. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents major industry players, has called 2022 a “pivotal year,” optimistically predicting that all 289 ships of its member companies will be sailing by August. Pent-up demand, bolstered by the gradual easing of restrictions, is fueling bookings, and although cruise lines are bracing for more omicron-style bumps in the road, there is growing optimism that the worst is over. But that doesn’t mean things are back to normal just yet. So what can you expect? Read our answers to the most common cruise questions here…

Do I have to wear a mask on board?

Many rules, including those governing testing and mask-wearing, remain in place, though that could change quickly. Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises have already reverted to their no-mask policies on US sailings, with Virgin Voyages starting next Sunday. Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises have also announced that masks will be optional on their US sailings from March 1.

What about going ashore?

Some Covid rules on ships, and in particular those governing travel ashore, are determined by the regulations of each country where ships call.

“It’s a constant challenge because the whole point of cruising is that it’s a global experience,” said Edwina Lonsdale, cruise specialist and managing director of cruise agency Mundy Cruising. “The ships really have to respect the protocols of the territories they are in instead of being a self-contained island.”

Some cruise agents have also reported increased interest in smaller ships where passenger numbers number in the hundreds rather than the thousands, cutting off social contact and making it easier to navigate rules limiting travel at ports of call.

Which cruises are my best bet this summer?

Many customers so far are opting to stay closer to home this summer and book cruises to the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, which are additionally served by crossings from UK ports, eliminating the need to fly.

And the Caribbean?

Despite recent cases of cruise ships being turned away from some islands due to the omicron outbreak, the Caribbean is considered a relatively safe bet. CLIA UK & Ireland director Andy Harmer points out that only a small proportion of cruises have been affected by the itinerary changes.

“People can book with confidence and understand that cruise lines work closely with the ports they visit,” he says. “It’s a situation that is constantly changing and updating. If the routes change, passengers can continue to enjoy their holidays on board and visit other ports.

And further ?

Anyone wishing to sail to South America, Asia and Australasia must bide their time as these destinations are not expected to return to cruise schedules until next winter at the earliest, especially as several countries, including Japan and China, still restrict entry to international visitors.

And the river cruise?

River cruising is getting more and more attention these days. European river boats carry an average of 190 passengers, which limits social contacts. They also offer relatively easy access to boarding points, with lines such as AmaWaterways, Uniworld and APT promoting Eurostar or self-driving as alternatives to flying.

How quickly will the rules change?

This is one of the biggest challenges facing cruises. Cruise lines continue to offer flexible “peace of mind” cancellation policies, with some allowing guests to cancel up to 48 hours before departure with a full refund or Future Cruise Credit (FCC).

Giles Hawke, UK managing director of Avalon Waterways, said the company was seeing increased confidence among customers as UK travel rules eased. However, he stressed that forward planning was essential. Customers should be aware of stricter mask rules on the mainland, the need to show Covid passes to enter many indoor venues and complete the Passenger Locator Form (PLF), which must be done before returning to the UK.

“If you’ve done the PLF once, you know what’s involved and it’s about having the information available and ready,” he explained. “Part of it comes down to people being properly briefed by their travel agent or cruise line, so preparation is key.

“People should book the holidays they want and be prepared to go. By using a reputable company if you cannot travel or the rules change, you will be taken care of.

10 cruises for 2022 that offer peace of mind

Treasures of the Nile

Egypt is this year’s star thanks to the February 11 release of the new film Death on the Nile, the centenary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum. After a decade of downturn, Nile cruises promise to be back in vogue this year, so beat the crowds to Karnak Temple in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, where the mummified body of the young king remains for the rest of the world. instant before its transfer to the museum. .