If you need a COVID-19 test in order to return back to your home country after your Caribbean cruise, cruise line policies vary widely.
Some cruise lines such as Celebrity Cruises are charging passengers for onboard testing prior to disembarkation -- as much as $380 for a family of four. Other cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, Holland America Line and Princess offer the tests for free.
And then there are brands such as Carnival that don’t make it easy, leaving it up to guests to figure out how and when to get required testing at the end of their cruise for their trip back home -- something that can require rapid testing options that can add nearly $1,000 for a family of four to the total cost of a trip.
All this may be confusing to Canadians and other non-U.S. travelers who need a PCR or antigen test to get back into their home countries.
To make things easier, here is a rundown of the current policies of most major lines.
Carnival Cruise Line
In your need a test to return to Canada or another home country, you are on your own to figure out how to get one when you disembark your cruise. Carnival does not offer any onboard testing service.
While some cruisers may be fine about arranging testing on their own, at the airport or another land-based facility, others are not.
Cruise Critic member Reenie75 writes "So a representative from Carnival just told me tonight they are not offering any testing before leaving their ship for Canadians? Really?!?! This is a kiss goodbye to Canadians."
Celebrity offering free testing prior to disembarkation on bookings that were paid in full before November 16, 2021. If you don’t meet that deadline, you will have to pay $55 per person for an antigen test, or $95 per person for a PCR test, conducted on the ship.
Crystal facilitates antigen and PCR tests onboard its ships when required for re-entry. While antigen tests are complimentary, availability for PCR testing may be limited and guests are responsible for the $125 cost of the test. The cruise line notes the cost may be reimbursable by the guests travel insurance provider. Guests need to let Crystal know at embarkation if they need a disembarkation PCR test. The tests are administered by the Crystal medical staff, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney does not offer tests for departing guests. The cruise line recommends guests visit AdventHealth Centra Care, which offers rapid-result testing (antigen or PCR) at the Orlando International Airport. The testing site is before the security checkpoint in the Terminal A atrium. Results take 15 to 20 minutes, according to the cruise line. You may make reservations online.
Holland America Line
Holland America Line offers free testing at the disembarkation terminal when required for your return to your home country. Antigen and PCR tests are available. Guests are assigned a specific time while still onboard the ship, and you then disembark as usual, collect your luggage, clear customs and exit the terminal for testing. Results take about an hour, so you need to make your post-cruise travel arrangements with that in mind. If you are lingering in a port city beyond the 48 or 72 hours that your home country requires for return testing, any additional testing needed is at your expense.
For those who need tests to get back home, MSC organizes testing onboard for a fee of $80 per person for a PCR test or $25 per person for an antigen test. The tests are arranged to comply with 48-hour or 72-hour requirements, based on your home country’s rules.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian offers free testing as long it is required by your home country. For U.S.-based sailings, COVID-19 antigen or PCR tests are administered by the ship’s medical staff onboard, prior to disembarkation, and paid for by the cruise line. If you aren’t returning home immediately but still want a PCR test while on the ship, the fee is $150.
Oceania provides COVID-19 antigen tests prior to disembarkation. They are administered onboard. Only if a PCR test is required for travel home -- for Canadians, for example -- the cruise line will administer and pay for that test. You are responsible for determining which test you need and to confirm that the cruise line’s test will be accepted by their home country.
If your home country requires proof of a negative COVID-19 test, Princess will cover the cost. The way it works is after you disembark your ship, collect your luggage, clear customs and exit the terminal, testing will be available right outside the terminal. Antigen testing takes about 30 minutes while PCR test results are available in about 60 minutes. You need to plan for the time in your post-cruise travel arrangements; passengers getting tested pierside on disembarkation day should not book a flight departing any time before 1 p.m. to be on the safe side.
Royal Caribbean provides free PCR and antigen testing onboard. Passengers can arrange for it through guest services once onboard..
Seabourn will administer re-entry tests onboard for free, within the timeframe required for your trip home.
Silversea provides complimentary COVID-19 rapid antigen test for all disembarking guests. If you need a PCR test, the price ranges from $120 to $170 depending on the disembarkation port. Tests can be pre-arranged once you board the ship. The cruise line uses an independent lab that comes onboard to do the testing. Those who need rapid PCR tests should notify Silversea as soon as possible once onboard, to ensure testing kits are available.
Guests, or "sailors," on Virgin’s Scarlet Lady are responsible for making their own arrangements for tests, which are not offered on the ship. The cruise line says, "You must get, and cover, all the appropriate tests and medical clearances if your home country requires you to do so prior to flying home."