(12:20 p.m. EDT) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Friday updated its technical guidance for test cruises and initial revenue cruises. Significantly in the new guidance, the agency says that fully vaccinated passengers do not need to be tested during embarkation and disembarkation, nor during their sailings -- unless they are showing COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to the virus within 14 days of their sailing.
Testing is required for all unvaccinated passengers. The agency further advised cruise lines it's acceptable to use approved antigen testing, with PCR testing preferred. The agency also added wording in several areas leaving decisions at the discretion of the cruise lines, such as whether a vaccinated passenger who has been exposed to the virus but has no symptoms may board.
On Saturday, Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley posted on Facebook that the latest updates: "All reflect the significant progress made with the vaccines. Reading the updates last night and this morning gives me increased optimism."
The changes to the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order, which has been in effect since late October, reflect the latest development on the back of the agency's update last week loosening requirements for mask wearing for vaccinated passengers, and allowing those who have been jabbed to explore independently on shore. The agency has not yet approved a return of U.S. cruises, which have been on hold since March 2020.
Further updates from the CDC are expected.