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Carnival Cruise Lines to drop mask mandate for passengers

The cruise line also announced that it would no longer require guests under 5 to be granted vaccine exemption documentation.

WASHINGTON — Carnival Cruise Lines has announced that it will no longer require passengers to wear face masks in most instances while onboard. 

According to a press release, the cruise line said it is now using updated CDC guidelines for cruise ships and will now "recommend but not require" masks for passengers starting March 1, though it added that this update may not apply for certain venues and events onboard. 

The updated policies also mean that Carnival will no longer require vaccine exemptions for children under 5 for its "vaccinated cruises," and there will now be more flexibility for pre-cruise testing requirements, including shortening the COVID test requirements to just three days before sailing for boosted passengers.

Other major cruise lines announced similar changes, with Royal Caribbean making masks optional onboard starting Feb. 25, and Norwegian dropping its mandate on March 1. Disney Cruises has not provided an update on its mask policy and its website indicates that passengers will still be required to wear one in most indoor settings. 

“We have had a very successful restart of guest operations thanks to the support of our guests, the commitment of our shipboard team, and the effective protocols we have put in place,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “The public health situation has continued to improve, providing confidence about these changes. Our protocols will evolve as we continue to remain dedicated to protecting the public health of our guests, crew and the communities we visit.” 

Concurrent with a nationwide decline in COVID cases, the update comes days after the CDC lowered its cruise ship travel health notice indicator from Level 4 -- which recommends avoiding cruise travel regardless of vaccination status -- to Level 3, which encourages fully-vaccinated and boosted travelers to follow heightened hygiene strategies while on board.

According to the CDC, people who aren't fully vaccinated should still avoid going on a cruise. 

Since the start of the pandemic, the cramped-quarters and frequent disembarkation from port to port onboard cruise ships has caused several outbreaks among passengers, causing several cancellations or forcing passengers to quarantine onboard while at sea.

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