Update: On February 6, a Carnival Cruise Line spokesperson said the protocols that were released had not been finalized. "In our haste to keep guests and travel agents informed, we posted some information that was not finalized. As we have said previously, guests should expect mask, testing, distancing and other protocols. We intend to provide more details over the coming weeks as we work to resume operations." Cruise Critic will update this story when more information is available.
(6:40 p.m. EST) -- To comply with a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention directive, Carnival Cruise Line updated its website Friday with health and safety protocols that include wearing masks onboard, proof of negative COVID-19 tests before sailing, ship-sponsored shore excursions, contact tracing and more.
The moves aren't exactly new, as they all dovetail what the industry signed onto last year when it submitted changes to the CDC. They also reflect the onboard changes that Carnival Corporation brands such as Costa Cruises and AIDA implemented in Europe when they restarted late last year.
"We are complying with an industry-wide disclosure process that is part of the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order," the line said in a statement. "This disclosure includes core elements of our return to service plan, which will continue to evolve once we receive additional guidance from the CDC. When we have a final plan, we will update our website and communicate directly with booked guests and travel agents."
Still, for many guests who were hopeful that cruises in the U.S. could somehow avoid COVID-19 precautions, the rules represent quite a change.
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Here are some of the main points (the policies in full can be found on
Check In. Online check-in is required to be completed before midnight the night before sailing, so passengers can receive an arrival time at the pier. Physical distancing will be required during check-in and boarding. Guests who arrive earlier than their appointment time will not be allowed inside the terminal. The rules also apply to the line's Diamond, Platinum and Casino passengers.
COVID-19 Testing. All passengers 2 years and older must take a COVID-19 test between five days to 24 hours before boarding. Carnival reserves the right to perform additional testing at the terminal onboard. If travelers show up without proof of required testing, they will be denied boarding, with no refund or credit issued.
Anyone who has had COVID-19 or had close contact with someone suspected or confirmed with coronavirus within 14 days of embarkation will be denied boarding, or subject to denial of reboarding, quarantine, isolation or disembarkation. Passengers in these circumstances will be provided with a future cruise credit.
Health Screening Before Boarding. All guests will be required to complete a health questionnaire beginning 72 hours before embarkation. Passengers will have to reconfirm the questionnaire at check in.
All passengers will also have to have their temperatures checked before boarding. Secondary screenings might be used to make sure passengers are healthy to board the ship. If passengers refuse, they will be denied boarding without refund or credit.
Once onboard, passengers might undergo daily temperature checks. Temperature checks also could be conducted before disembarking at a port and before participating in certain onboard activities.
Hand sanitizers, wipes and hand-washing stations will be located throughout the ships and in the terminals.
All passengers over the age of 2 will be required to wear masks indoors except inside their staterooms, while eating and drinking when seated at a table and when using the cardio equipment at the onboard gym. Masks will be required outdoors when physical distancing is not possible.
Masks should have two layers or more and be worn over the nose and mouth. Gaiters and bandanas are not allowed. Face shields can be used with a mask.
Physical Distancing. Access to public space will be limited, with some venues and activities operating at reduced capacity. Reservations may be required for pools, gyms, casinos, restaurants, bars and entertainment. Passengers should expect distanced seating in theaters, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
Buffets. Buffet service will be modified to eliminate or severely restrict self-service. Generally, this has meant that diners pick out their items, and masked and gloved servers dish it up.
Contact Tracing. Passengers may be required to take part in tracking technologies that would assist in contact tracing, should anyone onboard be suspected of having COVID-19. This could include wearable technology, video surveillance, transaction data and photographs.
Shore Excursions. Passengers will only be allowed to get off in port on excursions or activities that are run by vetted tour operators. Private exploration or private tours will not be permitted. Indoor excursions will only be offered if physical distancing, mask wearing and other measures are implemented.
Carnival might decide to avoid a destination if the level of COVID-19 community spread in that port is too great, or otherwise limit passenger access ashore.
Passengers will need to remain with their fellow cruisers during the shore excursions. If passengers don't comply, they may be refused reboarding, and will not receive a refund, credit or compensation.
Cruising on Carnival is currently paused through April 30, 2021, with some ships and homeports not returning until even later. The cruise line could change any of these policies, depending on what's required by the CDC when sailing does resume.
On the Cruise Critic message boards, passengers debated the changes.
"This will evolve over time. I remember early last year, I would wipe down every package, food stuff, everything brought into home with 72 percent alcohol," bitemyfly said. "While this doesn't sound like fun to me, I'm sure in the beginning it will work for people who won't mind."
"I'm just excited to see that they have posted some protocols," treecritter said. "Restricted excursions is the item that saddens me . . . There are many of us that will abide by whatever protocols are set in place so we can cruise again. Others that are on the fence or know they won't cruise with these protocols should still hang on to your reservations if you can until final payment and keep fingers crossed, Things could change."