As cruising resumes in summer 2021, the rules and regulations surrounding life onboard are ever-changing. One of the biggest questions that Cruise Critic readers have is whether or not they will be required to wear masks during their cruise, either onboard or in ports of call.
The short answer is: likely in ports and on shore excursions and possibly onboard. Whether you have to mask up onboard will depend not just on which cruise line you sail with, but even the ship and port of departure itself, as well as your COVID-19 vaccination status.
(For a look at which cruise lines require passengers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, or undergo pre-cruise antigen or PCR testing, read our feature here).
A good rule of thumb is that if you are on a ship that is less than 95 percent vaccinated, you will probably need to wear masks at some point. Even those who are on fully vaccinated ships with no masking requirements should still bring a few along, as local regulations might require them to be used onshore, during motorcoach transfers, or for air travel and in use in public spaces.
Which cruise lines and ships require mask usage? Read on.
Alaskan Dream Cruises
Alaskan Dream Cruises currently requires all passengers to wear masks, even though these Alaskan-based small ships are operating with full vaccine mandates onboard.
American Queen Steamboat Company
Since American Queen Steamboat Company began accepting only vaccinated passengers July 1, masks are no longer required to be worn while onboard. They will, however, be required for embarkation and disembarkation when inside terminal buildings and when seated on AQSC's motorcoaches.
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival made mask usage mandatory onboard all of its sailings, along with pre-cruise COVID-19 testing, as of August 7. The policy, which requires passengers to mask up when outside their cabin and not actively eating or drinking, is in effect until at least October 31, 2021.
Following CDC Guidelines, masks will not be required for vaccinated guests. Masks are encouraged for unvaccinated guests under 16 years old while indoors when not eating or drinking. Unvaccinated guests over 16 years sailing will be required to wear masks at all times except when eating, drinking or in their stateroom.
If you're outside your stateroom, you'll need to have a mask on unless you are actively eating or drinking. Celestyal also requires passengers to wear masks when onboard the ships tenders and at other times as directed.
Crystal does not require masks onboard its sailings. Masks will, however, need to be worn in shoreside terminals, hospitality suites, tour dispatch areas and during Crystal’s organized airport and hotel transfers. Excursions with indoor components could also require the use of face masks.
Mandatory wearing of face masks (with no exceptions, says Cunard) will be required at the cruise terminal, during shore excursions and at all times when indoors onboard, except when having your identity checked at the gangway or while eating and drinking, inside your stateroom, using recreational water facilities, exercising in the gym and during certain treatments or services, such as facials. Face masks do not need to be worn outdoors except when social distancing can't be maintained.
Disney is still evaluating its U.S. protocols, but its U.K.-based summer sailings provide a glimpse of what might be. If you're 11 or older, you'll be required to wear a mask onboard when outside your stateroom, except when actively eating or drinking in a designated area. Swimming and sitting in a deck chair also qualify as grounds to remove the mask. Embarking passengers will need to wear their face coverings while in cruise terminals.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
In compliance with U.K. guidance, Fred. Olsen passengers are required to wear a mask onboard when not in their staterooms, eating or drinking, or seated in a deck chair. But good news: The open decks are fair game to go maskless.
Holland America Line
If you are fully vaccinated, you won't need to wear a mask on Holland America Line ships. For those who are unvaccinated at the time of sailing, prepare to mask up.
The line says masks will be required "without exception" for all passengers, including fully vaccinated ones. This applies to onboard areas of the ship but could also presumably apply to tours conducted on the ship's inflatable zodiac rafts, where passengers are in close quarters with one another despite being outdoors.
MSC Cruises (U.S. Departures Only)
If you're sailing from the U.S. with MSC, you'll need to wear a mask anytime you're not eating or drinking or are outside of your stateroom -- even if you are fully vaccinated.
Norwegian Cruise Line
No masks here. Because Norwegian Cruise Line is mandating that only 100 percent fully vaccinated passengers and crew will be allowed onboard through the fall, passengers on the company's summer sailings will not have to wear masks or socially distance while onboard. However, those embarking Norwegian Jade from Piraeus will need to mask up in accordance with local health guidelines.
As with Norwegian Cruise Line, sister-brand Oceania won't require anyone to wear a mask onboard (unless they choose to) thanks to the company's policy of only accepting passengers that have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Local restrictions could, however, mandate the use of masks when in port or onboard; such events will be communicated to passengers.
Even in paradise, masks are required aboard Paul Gauguin when indoors and not actively eating or drinking.
If you're outside your cabin, you'll need to wear a mask -- at least for now -- when sailing onboard the ships of Ponant. Physical distancing requirements will also be enforced while onboard.
Princess Cruises' current guidance strongly recommends the use of masks onboard. According to the line, "ALL guests will be required to wear a face mask – with no exceptions – in elevators and in designated indoor entertainment areas, all retail shops, and in the casino except when eating or drinking." Masks will also be required in terminals when embarking or disembarking, on tours, and ashore as local guidelines dictate.
Regent Seven Seas
Since Regent Seven Seas will only currently allow passengers and crew onboard who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, masks are not required to be worn while onboard. Bring your masks though, as local regulations may require their use when you're ashore.
If you're sailing on Royal Caribbean, you'll need to bring your mask along and wear it any time you are in a part of the ship accessible to unvaccinated cruisers. That means masks can be removed in staterooms, when eating or drinking, or when vaccinated passengers are in select public rooms and other venues dedicated for their exclusive use. Masks will still be required during the embarkation and disembarkation process and may be required by local authorities when going ashore.
There are exceptions. Vaccinated adults do not have to wear a mask indoors onboard Adventure of the Seas, which is sailing from The Bahamas with a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for all adults. Onboard Serenade of the Seas sailings to Alaska, all passengers over 2 years old must wear a mask. On Jewel of the Seas from Cyprus, all passengers 6 years and older have to mask up.
Full details can be found in Royal Caribbean's Healthy Sail Center.
Ultra-luxury line Seabourn says masks will be required in select locations onboard and ashore that will be communicated to passengers.
Any unvaccinated passengers under 18 years of age must wear a mask at all times onboard when they're outside their cabin, unless they are actively eating or drinking. Vaccinated passengers are off the hook, and all passengers can go maskless in the wilderness. Passengers may be required to wear masks in port, if required by local authorities.
Victory Cruise Lines
Since Victory Cruise Lines caters entirely to vaccinated passengers, masks will not be required onboard. Mask usage will still be mandatory during embarkation and onboard Victory's shore excursion motorcoaches.
Viking is currently still mandating the use of face masks while onboard, depending on conditions at the time of sailing. The line notes it may require the use of face masks even when sitting in public venues unless passengers are "actively eating or drinking", though it is likely this guidance -- which mirrors recommendations set forth by the U.S. CDC -- would be used on itineraries to and from the United States.
Windstar says masks need to be worn indoors in public spaces onboard the ship except when eating and drinking. Masks can be removed when passengers are using steam and sauna rooms, cardio equipment in the onboard fitness center, or are engaged in a spa treatment.
Cruise Critic will update this page as more policies become available.