During the height of the pandemic, many people dreamed of going on a cruise again. Many cruise enthusiasts travel several times per year, while others look forward to an annual vacation to get away from it all in the middle of the ocean.
When passengers were quarantined for 15 days onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, not only did the appeal of cruise travel fade quickly, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) put in place strict restrictions against cruises along with other types of travel and vacations.
Finally, this month, CDC has loosened restrictions, with the recommendation that only fully vaccinated individuals travel. The CDC lightened the classification from a risk of “4” (very high, avoid travel) to “3,” (high, fully vaccinated people may travel), The Hill reported.
The CDC guidelines seem to be in line with what most Americans planning a cruise want. In a recent Harris Poll survey, 59% of respondents said they would seek out a cruise line that mandated all crew and passengers be vaccinated.
What Else Should You Do to Prepare Safely for a Cruise?
In addition to recommending vaccinations, the CDC has set out specific guidelines for those who are not vaccinated and choose to travel. The CDC recommends people who are not fully vaccinated quarantine 7 days after cruise travel, even following a negative COVID test, and 10 days for those who choose not to get tested upon their return.
On their end, before cruise lines can begin sailing, their ships must pass CDC safety testing by either running a test trip or agree to only book trips in which 95% of passengers and crew are fully vaccinated. Yesterday, Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas set out on the very first of the test runs with a group of 600 fully-vaccinated volunteers, staff and a CDC employee, according to CNN.
Royal Caribbean Sets Standards for Cruising and COVID-19 Safety
Royal Caribbean is amongst the first U.S. cruise lines to put their own guidelines in place for passengers planning to cruise from Miami, Florida, to the Bahamas on the Freedom of the Seas ship. Royal Caribbean recommends all guests 16 and over be vaccinated before sailing. Guests who are vaccinated must show proof of their vaccine(s), such as the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card.
Those who are not vaccinated or can’t show proof must undergo a COVID-19 test before boarding and before disembarking, at their own expense. The cost of the tests, Royal Caribbean reports on its blog, is $136 for both.
Royal Caribbean says it is not profiting for the tests, but only paying the vendors. Most people can get COVID-19 testing free at any urgent care or even many drugstores, but Royal Caribbean is mandating guests take their tests, on-site, immediately prior to embarking. Guests are also required to get a test three days before cruising at their own cost at an off-site location.
The cruise line has also designated certain areas, including bars, lounges and restaurants, as areas for vaccinated guests only. There will also be separate dining areas for vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, says the Royal Caribbean blog.
The Real Costs of Cruise Travel Today
If you’ve been missing your cruises, you may be ready to book your next vacation today. But how much will it cost?
Expedia.com is advertising Caribbean cruises from Miami, Florida for as little as $849 per person for six nights. If you aren’t local to south Florida, you’ll also have to add in the cost of your airline tickets — and potentially a hotel in the area depending on flight times and availability. If you live close enough to drive, you’ll want to add the cost of fuel into your budget.
If you’re considering a cruise, it may be wise to book now. As far back as February, ThePointsGuy reported that cruise prices, along with airline ticket prices, were already starting to rise. If you’re lucky, you may be able to trade your airline tickets from a canceled trip last year, or use credit card rewards points to defray the cost of the trip.
Additionally, the CDC recommends picking up travel insurance for your trip, as refund policies may vary if you have to cancel your trip for any reason. InsureMyTrip.com notes that travel insurance prices vary widely but, in general, tend to cost 4% to 10% of the total price of your trip.
Read the fine print that covers your credit card benefits before you spend extra cash on travel insurance, though. Some travel rewards cards, especially, offer travel insurance if you book your vacation using the card.
Can You Afford the Time Off?
If you’re not fully vaccinated, it’s wise to remember you’ll need to add 7 to 10 days quarantine time on to the duration of your vacation.
Your employer might approve a two-to-three week vacation if you didn’t take much paid time off last year. But given the labor shortage, it’s possible your company is short-staffed and you may not be able to take that much time off, paid or unpaid.
In instances where securing time off is an issue, you might consider a 3-night cruise from Miami to the Bahamas for just $299 per person.
COVID-19 testing and the vaccines are generally free, so unless you choose certain Royal Caribbean cruises where you’ll pay an extra $136 for tests, you won’t need to factor that into your budget.
Should You Splurge on a Cruise?
As many Americans’ savings accounts surged during the pandemic as they cut back on expenses such as travel, dining out, and entertainment, Summer 2021 could be as good as time as any to splurge on a cruise. Just remember to maintain those healthy savings habits developed during the pandemic and keep funds in your account for a true emergency.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: CDC Lowers Cruise Travel Recommendations: Is the Vacation Worth the Cost?