How to Pick Your First Post-Pandemic Cruise

If you’re dreaming of a post-pandemic cruise vacation, here's what you should know before you book your trip.
Cruise ship at sea (Photo: Shutterstock)
Cruise ship at sea (Photo: Shutterstock)

Cruise lines around the world are setting sail again, and if you’ve been waiting for the right time to hop aboard again, now is the time to look ahead to sailings in 2022. But things are still a little different, so even if you’re a seasoned cruiser, there are additional things you’ll want to consider before you book.

What to Consider Before You Book Your First Post-Pandemic Cruise

At least for a while, cruises are going to feel a little different than they used to. “It won’t be your same old cruise, at least initially. There will be a bunch of new rules,” says cruise industry expert Fran Golden. In addition to vaccine requirements and continued protocols around masking, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is unlikely to allow buffets or other self-serve options that are popular with families for the foreseeable future.

For a lot of travelers, the idea of being around other people who are not in your bubble may still be worrisome, even on a ship whose passengers will largely be vaccinated against the coronavirus, so being flexible while planning (and taking) your first post-COVID cruise will also be the key to a fun and enjoyable vacation. And if your goal is to visit a particular country or destination, then you may want to wait a bit longer. Because of the ever-changing rules and regulations at different borders, cruise itineraries are likely to be modified from pre-pandemic routes for the purposes of safety and simplicity.

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When you think you might be willing to step on board a cruise ship again, you should always consider your family’s comfort level with the on-board protocols. Be sure to read through all of the information the cruise line provides, and do your research to see what is (and isn’t) open in each port. Parents may also want to consider kids’ comfort level with what may be repeated COVID testing, says Golden.

How to Pick Your First Post-Pandemic Cruise

There are dozens of cruise lines and hundreds of ships to choose from. And, let’s just be honest, every cruise line wants passengers back on board when cruising resumes. Still, there are a few ways to pick out the cruise line that’s best for you and your family when you’re ready to sail again.

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For example, consider each cruise line’s vaccination or testing rules. Norwegian Cruise Line has said it plans to require 100 percent of its passengers to be vaccinated on its startup cruises. Royal Caribbean is requiring vaccinations for anyone age 18 or older. You should also look at the kids’ club protocols if your children are in that age range. In terms of shore excursions, you may be comfortable going wherever the cruise line sails, or you might prefer a shorter voyage that only stops at the line’s private island.

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This article about post-pandemic cruising was originally posted in June 2021. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Megan duBois
Megan duBois is the Senior Theme Park Editor for FamilyVacationist. She's also a freelance journalist who covers theme parks, cruising, family travel, and wine tourism for outlets like Conde Nast Traveler, Business Insider, Forbes, Travel + Leisure, The Points Guy, and National Geographic. You can reach her via email at megand513 [at] gmail [dot] com.