Norwegian Cruise Line dropping mask requirement for March sailings

Guests must be fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to departure

Norwegian Cruise Line said it will drop masking requirements on its voyages starting on March 1, leaving the decision to each guest's discretion.  

"Our cruises will operate with 100% vaccination of crew and guests age five and over, therefore face coverings are not required while onboard," a notice on the company's website reads. "However, we recognize the added protections provided when wearing a mask covering and recommend that all guests do so onboard when indoors, except when actively eating or drinking, or seated at a table in a dining setting, or when in their stateroom. Mask coverings are also recommended outdoors when physical distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained."

Guests must be fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to departure and must show proof of vaccination at the terminal in order to board. A Norwegian spokesperson told FOX Business that unvaccinated guests who are ages 4 and under will be permitted to board but be limited to under 5% of total guest occupancy on each cruise per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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In addition, Norwegian will no longer require COVID-19 testing at the pier prior to embarkation to allow for a more streamlined check-in process with minimal person-to-person contact and limited wait times. 

Instead, guests will be required to provide proof of a negative antigen or PCR test result administered by a verified third party within two days prior to boarding cruises originating in U.S. ports and within three days prior to voyages departing from a non-U.S. port. Guests unable to provide proof of a negative result can access testing at the terminal at their own expense. 

The cruise ship Norwegian Gem operated by Norwegian Cruise Line arriving at Port Canaveral in 2014.  (iStock / iStock)

"Maintaining the health and safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit continues to be our first priority, always," the cruise line said in a statement. "Protocols may vary by itinerary, and in those cases, we will do our very best to communicate itinerary-specific protocols to our guests as soon as possible."

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The move comes as coronavirus cases across the globe appear to be on a downward trend following a spike caused by the spread of the omicron variant. Last month, Norwegian announced it would cancel several sailings due to the omicron surge.

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Norwegian's masking requirement will not be dropped on European sailings in order to comply with local regulations. All guests are required to wear masks onboard while indoors except for when actively eating or drinking or when in their stateroom. They will also be required to wear masks outdoors when social distancing is not possible.