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Do Kids Require Vaccination to Cruise? Here Are the Major Lines' Rules | Frommer's Pavel L Photo and Video / Shutterstock

Do Kids Require Vaccination to Cruise? Here Are the Major Lines' Rules

A cruise line–by–cruise line look at vaccinination rules for children under 18

Now that vaccines are available to children above the age of 4, cruise lines have been left with the conundrum of whether or not to require vaccination of all eligible passengers.

While science has now shown Covid-19 vaccination is as safe for that age group as it is for adults, only one in three parents of children under 12 feel comfortable with vaccinating their offspring, according to a recent Kaiser Foundation poll.

Of course, not requiring vaccines carries its own risks. When Covid-19 reared its hideous head, cruise ships were seen as a major vector of infection, and the industry's reputation took a bruising. To ensure passenger safety, comply with requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and repair their image, cruise lines have since instituted very strict pandemic protocols that include pre-boarding tests taken no more than 48 hours before sailing, mask requirements in many indoor areas, and vaccine mandates. Will allowing unvaxxed children into that mix undermine the efforts?

Each cruise line has had a different response to that question, but there is one thing that they agree on: A person is only considered fully vaccinated if at least two weeks have passed since completing all pre-booster doses. If the most recent shot was received fewer than 14 days before boarding, it won't count.

We expect to update this article as requirements shift.

Carnival Cruise Line

Allows unvaccinated kids ages 5–11: Yes

Caveats: Though Carnival allows unvaccinated children on board, it seems to be doing all it can to nudge parents to get their kids jabbed. Towards that goal, it only allows vaccinated children to participate in its youth programs and to enter its onboard trampoline park, Sky Zone.Unvaccinated travelers are charged an additional $150 to cover the cost of on-board testing, which raises the cost of a cruise significantly for families.

Carnival warns that it reserves limited space for guests who aren't vaccinated and opt for the test instead: "Vaccine exemptions for children and adults are not guaranteed and are capacity-controlled based on the total number of vaccinated guests projected to be on board. The number of exemptions we are able to grant is far fewer than the requests we receive. While the decision to vaccinate children is obviously a personal one, if you are a family with children ages 5–11 and want to guarantee your ability to sail together, we encourage you to consider your vaccination options."

Celebrity Cruises

Allows unvaccinated kids ages 5–11:  Yes

Background: On December 6, Celebrity issued a statement that it was reconsidering its requirement that children 5-11 be vaccinated. The line said "Our recent announcement regarding a change in the minimum vaccination age required to cruise has been placed on hold until further notice. Celebrity Cruises will continue to put in place health and safety protocols that take into consideration the latest CDC guidance." No other details were supplied.

Disney Cruise Line

Allows unvaccinated kids ages 5–11: No

From Disney's site: "Currently, Disney Cruise Line continues to require all vaccine-eligible Guests (based on U.S. eligibility requirements) to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at the time of sailing. This will be a requirement for all Guests (U.S. and international) ages 5 and up for sailings beginning on or after January 13, 2022. Guests who are not vaccine-eligible because of age must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test result (paid for by the Guest) taken between 3 days and 24 hours before their sail date."

Holland America Line

Allows unvaccinated kids ages 5–11: No

From Holland America's site: "Regardless of age, all guests on voyages departing through February 28, 2022 must be fully vaccinated in order to sail." In other words, kids too young for vaccinations are not allowed at this time.

MSC Cruises

Allows unvaccinated kids ages 5–11: Yes

Caveats: None, except the line explicitly states that parents must be vaccinated, even if children are not. Here's MSC's policy page.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Allows unvaccinated kids ages 5–11: No

Wording from the NCL site: "Minors who meet the eligibility requirements set by FDA/WHO and/or EMA and who have been fully vaccinated are welcome to sail."

Caveats: That declaration means that children 4 and under are not currently allowed on NCL's ships because they cannot be vaccinated.

Princess Cruises

Allows unvaccinated kids ages 5–11: No

Caveats: On Princess' website, the information about vaccine requirements for children is buried in the FAQ section about its kids' programs: "As the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine becomes available to children 5–11 years old, following the CDC’s recommendation, we look forward to welcoming vaccinated guests of all ages... To limit crowding in the centers, entry will be restricted to youth participants. High touch surfaces, supplies, and equipment will be sanitized frequently. Activities such as singing events, Stanley the Bear, dining events (including Kids Dinner and port day lunch), and contact sports will not be offered."

Royal Caribbean International

Allows unvaccinated kids ages 5–11: Yes

Caveats: That could change soon. At a November press event aboard the newly launched Odyssey of the Seas, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley told the media, "We haven’t made a final decision yet on the [vaccinations for kids aged] five to twelve. It was recently announced and it takes time for parents to make their own decision. Our initial data shows us—which we think will change—that 35% are thinking of having their children between five and twelve vaccinated. We believe that that number will increase and change. So we’re watching the situation.”

On its website, Royal Caribbean warns that additional testing will be required for unvaccinated minors. "Guests under age 12 who are not vaccinated will complete additional Covid-19 testing requirements depending on the length and departure port of their sailing."