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Rome (Civitavecchia) (Photo:Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock)
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European Union Restricts American Travellers, Potentially Disrupting European Cruise Ship Restart

Rome (Civitavecchia) (Photo:Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock)
Rome (Civitavecchia) (Photo:Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock)

August 30, 2021

Aaron Saunders
Senior Editor, News and Features

After spending just over two months atop the European Union's safe travel list, the United States lost its status with the bloc because of its rising COVID-19 infection rates.

At a minimum, that means unvaccinated Americans will no longer be able to travel within the Schengen-zone countries that comprise much of the European Union.

However, individual countries can make their own decisions on whether to allow US citizens -- which is exactly what Portugal has done (see below).

The impact on American travelers who are vaccinated, though, is less clear. For now, vaccinated Americans can still travel to and cruise from Europe and -- because nearly every cruise line in Europe is requiring proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 -- those plans should remain unchanged (for now, anyway).

Why Did the European Union Make This Decision?

In June, the United States had fewer than 75 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 inhabitants, the number required to meet the threshold for the European Union's safe travel list.

Today, the United States has cases that exceed the EU's guidance, much of which is represented by the highly transmissible delta variant that is already causing disruption to the cruise industry and travel in general.

Can I Still Travel to Europe?

If you are vaccinated, yes -- you can still travel to Europe. Be warned that while the European Union can recommend what each member country can do, the actual decision still comes down to each individual country. That's why Greece was accepting American tourists as early as the spring, and why Germany decided recently it would ban non-vaccinated Americans from traveling to the country.

And why Portugal has become the first EU country after the ban to state that discretionary travel to and from the United States is still allowed.

The only policy change under the statement is that all US visitors must now present an official vaccination card, showing that they have been fully vaccinated at least 14 days before their arrival in Portugal with a vaccine recognized by the European Union. Children under 12 are exempted.

Ireland has also left its entry rules unchanged -- currently, arrivals with valid proof of vaccination are not subject to travel related-testing or quarantine and must complete a Passenger Locator Form.

So while you might read headlines that scream Americans are banned from travel to Europe, that's not quite the case. And because most European cruises were requiring proof of full vaccination anyhow, the average vaccinated person should see little day-to-day change in their scheduled cruise vacation plans.

Here's Where Things Get Dicey

The Hungarian Parliament Building and the Danube River, Hungary (Photo: Mistervlad/Shutterstock)
The Hungarian Parliament Building and the Danube River, Hungary (Photo: Mistervlad/Shutterstock)

Where things start to look shaky are cruises that traverse multi-country itineraries. Because the EU can only recommend what to do, there could be a situation where certain member countries decide they don't want American travelers, vaccinated or not.

If that's the case, itinerary changes are certainly in the cards. And as with everything else we've seen throughout the pandemic, these changes can be implemented with breakneck speed.

Because of this, Americans who are slated to travel to Europe on a cruise -- river, ocean or otherwise -- should rely on the cruise line or travel advisor for all the latest information and consult with their airline for any applicable testing changes or entry requirements into their European country of arrival.

Do not just assume that because the rules look one way on a Monday, that they will be the same come Friday. They almost certainly will not.

Is the European Union Restricting Visitors from Individual States?

Not at this time, though one country -- Malta -- flirted with this back in the spring, with a patchwork of admissions into the nation for Americans from select states. (Malta dropped this policy in July.)

What Should I Do If I Am Booked on a European Cruise?

Talk to your travel agent and cruise line and keep abreast of all the latest travel restrictions on the countries you are visiting.

For now, as long as you are fully vaccinated, you are still permitted to travel to Europe.

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