(11:35 a.m. EDT) -- Royal Caribbean has introduced, on a very limited basis, the option of pre-cruise testing for COVID-19 at cruise terminals.
The Boarding Day Test program, the cruise line made clear, is a last-resort for vaccinated guests who have had trouble securing the required testing prior to their sailing. Royal Caribbean advised guests against using the option unless "you simply can’t find a pre-cruise test or could not secure results in time."
Cruise lines in the U.S. recently moved from a three-day to a two-day time period for pre-cruise testing in response to updated guidance from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leaving some cruisers scrambling for tests.
Based on new guidance this week from the CDC, Royal also tweaked its rules for unvaccinated guests, who may now show negative results from pre-cruise PCR or antigen tests taken within three days of boarding. Previously, the rule was PCR tests only. The change was made because PCR tests are hard to access in some places, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson said.
Royal's move follows that of Carnival Cruise Line which also tried its own version of terminal-based testing but pulled back the program saying the logistics made the operation too complex.
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Royal's terminal testing does have some downsides, as the cruise line itself noted. You need to secure a reservation 24 hours in advance and schedule your test for 30 minutes before your assigned boarding time. After your test, you should expect to wait outside the terminal for up to one hour while the results are processed.
If you are found to be positive for COVID-19 you will not be allowed to board the ship. For this reason, air travelers in particular are better off knowing their results before they fly to their embarkation port.
Fees for the terminal tests start at $99 per person. Royal is charging $105 per person for sailings from Miami and Port Canaveral. According to Cruise Critic message board member Anton, the cost of testing at the terminal in Cape Liberty in New Jersey is $150.
Royal stipulates that all guests age 12 and up are required to take a PCR or antigen test within two days of boarding. Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 must show a negative test result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 3 days before boarding day.
Royal Caribbean also offers the option of at-home test kits purchased through the cruise line With the kits, you swab your own nose under the supervision of a telehealth medical professional, and get your results before you embark on your cruise vacation. Royal is charging $69.99 for two tests, $99.99 for three.
You may also secure a test from your local pharmacy or medical provider.