As many cruisers head to Europe this summer, it can be challenging to stay on top of the latest vaccine requirements, especially with the addition of booster shots.
Can you sail without a booster? Unfortunately, that is not a clear-cut yes or no answer. Generally, cruise lines sailing in Europe do require boosters for those guests who had their last vaccine more than nine months ago.
However, the rules vary slightly by cruise line, country, and the age of the guests. A lot to decipher.
Here is an overview of what you need to know about booster shots if you are cruising in Europe this summer.
What is considered fully vaccinated?
While boosters are not officially required in all cases, the timing of vaccines can make them necessary.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is in charge of the evaluation and supervision of medicinal products within the European Union. It sets out guidelines as it relates to approved vaccines and timelines.
To be considered up to date with vaccines within the EMA jurisdiction, travelers need to meet the following criteria:
- Received an approved vaccine such as Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Nuvaxovoid, or Novavax.
- Received their final dose of the original vaccine series within the last 9 months or 270 days.
- Received their last dose of a vaccine at least 14 days before the sailing date.
Travelers who do not meet these mandatory vaccine requirements will not be considered "up to date," a key threshold for many cruise lines.
Specific cruise line protocols
Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line has instituted a more narrow timeframe for vaccines.
For European departures on all Carnival Pride and Carnival Celebration, guests ages 12 and older who are more than 6 months past the last dose of their initial vaccine series need a booster in order to sail.
The cruise line does mention that vaccine exemptions for cruises to Europe will be considered for children ages 5-11 who are traveling with fully vaccinated parents, based on country specific requirements. Vaccines exemptions are limited and not guaranteed.
Carnival Cruise Line does not outline any additional testing options that would allow guests to sail without a booster if they do not meet the 9 month guideline.
Celebrity Cruises requires all guests ages 18 and older to be fully vaccinated for European sailings. To be considered fully vaccinated, guests must be vaccinated within 9 months (270 days) of the final dose in the primary vaccine series or have at least one booster shot.
Important to highlight, the 270 days must extend to the final day of the cruise, and the last primary dose must have been administered at least 14 days prior to embarkation. A Certificate of Recovery in lieu of a vaccination record will not be accepted.
Celebrity Cruises require additional testing at specific ports for those guests who do not meet these booster requirements. Specifically, they will need to take a test onboard before going ashore in the following countries:
The cost of the test is at the guest’s expense, conducted onboard by a licensed third-party testing provider at a cost of $55 USD per test.
Disney Cruise Line
Disney Cruise Line has one of the most stringent vaccine policies, requiring all guests ages 5 and older to be fully vaccinated.
In addition to this, they note that some European countries may have Covid-19 vaccination, testing and documentation requirements for entry that are independent of and in addition to Disney Cruise Line’s health and safety protocols.
Guests will need to get a booster for those countries that require a Covid-19 booster if their final Covid-19 vaccine was administered more than 270 days before arrival.
Holland America Line
Holland America Line requires all guests 5 years of age and older to be fully vaccinated. Children between the ages of 5-11 who are not vaccinated may request an exemption at the time of booking and if approved may be subject to additional testing and protocols.
For European cruises, the definition of fully vaccinated means guests have had their final vaccine at least 14 days prior to the cruise, and no more than 270 days (9 months) before the sail date. Guests ages 18 and older who have exceeded the 9 month limit need a booster.
The cruise line’s policy provides some leeway, noting that guests 18 years of age and older who are eligible for boosters but have not received one may request an exemption at the time of booking. However, if approved, they may be subject to additional testing, fees and protocols. Exemptions will be limited and are not guaranteed.
MSC Cruises requires all guests 12 and older to be fully vaccinated. For guests 18 and older, a booster is required if more than 9 months (270 days) have passed since receiving the initial vaccine series,
Guests who have received the full set of vaccines, have either received a booster or have recovered from Covid-19 are also considered fully vaccinated.
For those passengers who have recovered from Covid-19 and received only one shot of the vaccine, they will be considered fully vaccinated as long they received their vaccine shot or have recovered from Covid-19 within the last 6 months and have a verification certificate or QR Code confirming the information.
Norwegian Cruise Line
For European sailings, including Italy, Spain, Greece, France, and Portugal, all guests 12 and older must be vaccinated.
For Itineraries that include Italy, Spain, Greece, France, and Portugal, guests will require a booster, for all individuals 18 years or older, if their original vaccine course was taken more than 270 days prior to embarkation. This does not apply to Northern Europe/Baltic Itineraries in (Baltic, British Isles & Iceland), for which guests do not require a booster.
For itineraries that require boosters, guests may present a government recognized or official medical Certificate of Recovery instead. Specifically, guests will need to provide a) a doctor’s note, plus a laboratory confirmed PCR test result with the proper information such as name, Date, date of birth, positive result, etc.
For European cruises, Princess Cruises requires a vaccine booster for guests 18 years and older whose final dose of a Covid-19 vaccine was provided more than 9 months (270 days) from the date of disembarkation. There is currently no requirement for guests to receive a second booster dose.
Passengers ages 17 and under do not require a booster, regardless of when the last dose in an approved COVID-19 vaccine series was received.
The cruise line cautions guests that new vaccination requirements can change without notice, and recommend keeping their vaccination status up to date and ensuring they meet the requirements for the destinations they are traveling to.
Royal Caribbean lists its sailing protocols based on the port of departure with specific age requirements for vaccines.
For itineraries sailing from Barcelona, Spain, the cruise line requires vaccinations for guests 12 and over, and 6 and over, for those sailings with stops in Italy. This also applies to departures from England, the Netherlands, Denmark and Italy. However, for cruises departing from Stockholm, Sweden, the vaccination age is 18 and older.
Similar to Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean requires additional testing at specific ports for those guests who do not meet these booster requirements. The cost of the test is at the guest’s expense, conducted onboard by a licensed third-party testing provider at a cost of $55 USD per test.
Specifically, they will need to take a test onboard before going ashore in the following countries:
Covid-19 protocols continue to evolve and differ between cruise lines and countries. Guests need to ensure that they closely monitor their cruise line’s communication as well as country specific policies. If unclear, it is recommended to reach out to the cruise line for clarification, to ensure they will meet all of the requirements for sailing.
For embarkation, cruisers require original documentation such as vaccine cards or electronic QR where provided. There is no guarantee that photocopies will be accepted, although electronic versions are acceptable for countries that keep digital records.
And for those who have not received a booster and it has been more than 270 since they were vaccinated, they need to closely review their cruise line's policies. At this time, there are no requirements for a second booster.