The ultimate guide to cruising with COVID restrictions


MSC and other cruise lines have made history resuming cruising out of Southampton in 2021. A very welcomed relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions in the UK allowed for cruising to come back albeit with different regulations and conditions. This marks the beginning of a British coastal cruising season set to continue this summer with many cruise lines to follow including, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line with its thrill-seeker entertainment-packed ships, Cunard Cruise Line ready to bring a touch of elegance to British waters, and Disney getting ready to light up the season with legendary shows and entertainment for the entire family. 

Here is our ultimate guide on how to get ready to cruise during COVID-19. Discover in-depth first-hand information on what is required, how to board safely, and what to expect at the terminal.  

Pre-boarding COVID-19 test  

MSC cruise line allows UK residents vaccinated as well as partially and non-vaccinated on the ships. If unvaccinated, guests need to take a lateral flow (antigen) or PCR (molecular) swab test within 72 hours prior to the ship’s departure. Documentation of this negative test is required at the terminal check-in, alongside a health questionnaire, that needs completing before boarding the ship. For those that have received both their vaccinations, proof is likewise required. Travel insurance is also mandatory to board the ship, with proof of purchase required at check-in.  

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Embarking at the port  

With travel insurance, a negative COVID test proof and/or proof of vaccination, a completed health questionnaire to hand, and no flu or fever-like symptoms, ship embarkation can begin.

The cruise embarkation process is smooth and taken care of in detail. Passengers are divided into segments ahead of arriving at the port and are boarded at no more than 200 people at a time, allowing for enough time for each group to fully embark with enough space to maintain a safe social distance and reach out for documents, carry bags and follow each step without pressure.  

At the terminal and during boarding it is required to wear a face mask. Before entering the departure hall, a temperature check is completed. Hand luggage is sanitised and hold luggage is dropped off into isolation for sanitation, to later be delivered to the stateroom. 

At check-in, documentation of insurance, negative testing proof, or vaccination confirmations are provided, alongside the mandatory health screening questionnaire - which was provided by email upon booking the cruise, and was required to be filled 6 hours before boarding.  

Security is staggered to avoid crowds and a rapid swab test is completed at the security gates, providing a result within as little as 10 minutes. Once the result is confirmed, guests wait in the pre-boarding area, which is socially distanced. Boarding is slow and passengers are called in small segments to avoid cluster. 

The maximum boarding time is 1 hour.  


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Written by Angelica Galliano