What to Expect on Your Next Cruise Post COVID-19

health and safety protocols for cruising post COVID-19
Health and safety changes expected for cruising post COVID-19 - Photo by Canva

As the cruise lines prepare to return to sailing, there will be many changes you can expect for pre-boarding as well as on the ship. Cruise lines have instituted Cruise with Confidence policies that allow cancellation up to 48 hours prior to boarding, should you change your mind about being ready to get back on the sea. Each cruise line will have its own health and safety protocol, but there will be some general changes you can expect no matter what cruise line you are sailing.  

Prior to Boarding:

1. Extra Precautions

This is a broad, sort of all-encompassing category, but some of the things you can be prepared for will likely include a pre-boarding health questionnaire and the cruise line asking passengers to take extra precautions prior to the cruise.

If you are flying to the port of embarkation wearing masks, sanitizing hands regularly, and social distancing are some things we can likely expect, just to name a few. 

2. Assigned Boarding Times

To minimize the number of passengers in the check-in and boarding areas, it’s very likely that cruise lines will assign boarding times or a window of time you should arrive for check-in. Likely the online check-in process will include additional questions about how you are arriving at the port. Based on that information and potentially coupled with your past passenger status and category booked, arrival time will be assigned.    

3. Pre-Boarding/Check-in Procedures

The cruise terminals will be continuously sanitized during the boarding process. Upon arrival at the port, there will be temperature screening checkpoints before being allowed into the terminal building or onboard the ship. These extra processes will take time to complete, so be patient and understand these steps are to ensure the safety of all passengers.

4. Health Screening

Expect a pre-cruise health questionnaire as part of the online check-in process as well as in-person screenings at the port. Depending on your cruise like its likely you will undergo a health screening that’s a bit different than you are used to before you board. These screenings will likely include regular temperature checks, exposure assessment questions, and even PCR COVID-19 test. For passengers in a higher risk category (age and/or health history), you may be asked to provide doctor’s clearance or be cleared by the medical facility onboard the ship. 

We recommend checking in with your cruise line for specific details prior to cruising as it relates to health screenings.

5. Luggage Disinfection 

Don’t be surprised to see a luggage disinfection process for checked as well as carry-on bags. One river cruise company has announced this requirement and it’s likely all major cruise lines will follow in some form or another. 


1. Hand Sanitizer Stations

If you’ve cruised in the past few years, you’ve likely noticed (and hopefully used) the hand sanitizer station prior to entering the buffet, dining room(s), and other high traffic areas. Expect these stations to now be everywhere throughout the ship.

2. Limited Self-service 

Expect the buffets and beverage stations and other areas that were previously self-service (think soft serve ice cream) to now be manned by crew members.

3. Onboard Health Screenings

Temperature checks will become a regular occurrence while onboard which may lead to delays and additional time needed to attend activities as well as dining. Similarly, expect screenings and checks prior to reboarding the ship while in port. Should any passengers fail a screening, the onboard medical facilities have been upgraded with testing kits as well as isolation rooms and additional medical supplies. 

4. Disinfection

All rooms and public areas will be cleaned and sanitized with increased frequency and utilizing Electrostatic Spray Technology. Cruise lines are also upgrading their air filtration systems for cabins and public areas.

5. Limited Capacity

Cruise lines are going to limit the passenger onboard capacity to ensure more space per passenger and easier social distancing. Each cruise line will determine their reduced capacity level, but we expect at least a 25% reduction and for some lines as low as 50% of passengers on board.


1. Shore Excursions

While we don’t have all the details as yet, we expect cruise lines to limit port time on their cruises and only allow guests to disembark the ship for cruise line-approved excursions. By containing the environment guests are in, the cruise line limits the exposure of guests thereby reducing the occurrence of spread onboard. Guests returning from shore excursions should be prepared to go through additional health screenings, including a temperature check.

Check with your cruise line before sailing to learn more about their new procedures for onshore shore excursions. 

2. Health Screening

Upon disembarkation at the end of the cruise, expect an exit health questionnaire and/or screening prior to admission back into the US. Cruise line newcomer Virgin Voyages has already announced they will start a post-voyage notification process through which passengers and crew can inform the line if they become unwell within 14 days of leaving the ship.   

3. Quarantine

Be sure to check with your employer prior to vacation, as some may impose a 14-day quarantine before you are allowed back into the office. If you are a student or work in a school, your administration should advise as to any policies around quarantine after being out of the country.


If you have additional questions, our Community Forum is a great resource to ask questions and interact with fellow cruisers. We’ve compiled a list of helpful tips for packing in the post COVID-19 environment.

Be sure to check with your cruise line for specific protocols in place so that you are prepared for what is expected prior to boarding as well as while you are on the ship.


Join the discussion

What changes do you expect for your next cruise?

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