Carnival Cruise Line Tightens Health Protocols Due to Delta Variant

Carnival increases restrictions due to COVID-19 and outbreak on cruise
Carnival Vista docked in Galveston, Texas (Carnival Cruise Line)

Published Aug 16, 2021 6:30 PM by The Maritime Executive

The cruise industry is continuing to refine its approach making small adjustments to its protocols in line with other segments of the travel and leisure industry as they seek to respond to the increasing spread of the delta variant of COVID-19. While the industry insists that its protocols are working, they are seeking to stay ahead of the regulations and take as many precautions as possible to avoid a large spread outbreak similar to what the cruise ships saw early in 2020 as COVID-19 first emerged. Carnival Cruise Line recently announced new masking requirements for all passengers.

The largest reported outbreak on a cruise ship came to light last week aboard a Carnival Cruise Line ship. When the 133,500 gross ton Carnival Vista arrived in Belize authorities inspected the vessel before permitting passengers to go ashore. They reported that there were 25 positive tests among the crew and one passenger had also tested positive for COVID-19. Some of them were reported to be asymptomatic while others were showing mild symptoms. It is believed that there were approximately 2,900 passengers on the 8-day cruise from Galveston, Texas, and 1,450 crew members.

Carnival Cruise Line responded saying that its protocols were being followed including isolating the passenger and crew members and conducting tracing and testing. The positive test for COVID-19 came even though 99.98 percent of the crew and 96.5 percent of the passengers were reportedly fully vaccinated. The cruise was permitted to continue with passengers telling TV reporters that they had increased their use of masks in public but that everything seemed to be normal.

Across the cruise industry since ships resumed sailing there have been similar reports of positive tests. However, the Carnival Vista was the largest concentration reported since the spring of 2020. 

There are reports of the cruise lines strictly enforcing their testing and vaccination requirements. Passengers who arrive at the ships without the proper documentation have been denied boarding.  All the cruise lines have also warned customers booking cruises that the protocols might be evolving based on the course of the virus and experience from operations.

Even before last week’s cases, Carnival Cruise Line also announced that it would be further tightening its protocols into the fall of 2021. “Carnival will continue to operate with vaccinated cruises as defined by the CDC, including having its crew fully vaccinated. However, in an abundance of caution, and following the lead of similar sectors and venues – including Nevada casinos, Disney theme parks, and Broadway theaters – all guests will be asked to wear masks in certain indoor areas of Carnival’s ships,” the company said. Also starting with last weekend’s departures passengers now have to bring negative test results in addition to their proof of vaccination to board their cruise. 

Following the lead of other cruise lines, Carnival Cruise Line also implemented a $150 fee for testing for any passengers it exempts from the vaccination rules and permits to sail. That is in addition to testing and proof of insurance requirements.

For its part, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that it continues to monitor the cruise ship situation and it might revise its rules if it identifies areas in the current Conditional Sail Order that could be enhanced.