Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas will set sail from Baltimore Dec. 23. Photo: Port of Baltimore/Facebook

Major Cruises from Baltimore to Resume in Three Weeks, More Cruise Lines to Return

They generated some of the earliest headlines in the COVID-19 pandemic, and now, some 18 months later, major cruises are resuming at Chesapeake ports.

American Cruise Lines, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Royal Caribbean are all scheduled to sail from Baltimore starting on September 12. 

As of this writing, cruise lines vary with vaccination requirements, however; all guests age two and above must wear a face mask in all public spaces, including elevators, except when eating or drinking.

With the pandemic still underway and the COVID-19 Delta variant fueling new concerns, travel experts recommend staying flexible: sailing dates can change and itineraries can be altered mid-cruise (yes, that’s legal). You can buy Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance that includes evacuation costs. (Generally, this type of insurance must be purchased within 14 days of your initial payment).

American Cruise Lines returned to seasonal cruising the Chesapeake Bay this past March. They’ll offer 11 cruises between late October and late December, lasting between seven and 15 days, on three itineraries aboard three different ships. American Cruise Lines recommends that all eligible passengers be vaccinated, show proof of vaccination, and complete a pre-embarkation health declaration certifying their vaccination status. Unvaccinated guests will be subject to additional testing and quarantine requirements that may affect their ability to travel or participate in the cruise. Testing of all crew and passengers may take place regularly during the cruise. All unvaccinated guests are advised that vaccines may become required with minimal notice prior to their cruise.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ Pride is scheduled to resume cruising on September 12 with seven-night trips to Eastern and Western Caribbean and the Bahamas, then a two-week repositioning cruise to Tampa (with a partial Panama Canal transit), and the Legend starting cruises out of Baltimore in November. Carnival requires all crew members and passengers to be fully vaccinated and answer a one-question pre-cruise vaccine attestation email. Vaccinated guests must also present a negative result of a COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen) taken within three days prior to embarkation. Unvaccinated guests, including children under 12, will be welcomed on a capacity-controlled basis. Unvaccinated guests may not participate in independent shore excursions; Carnival will offer private “bubble tours” to minimize contact with the local population.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines just announced it will resume cruising out of Baltimore on December 23 with an eight-night southeast coast and Bahamas holiday aboard the Enchantment of the Seas. They’re sailing at reduced capacity, will all crew vaccinated and at least 95 oercent of guests fully vaccinated. If a certain threshold level of COVID-19 is detected onboard the ship during a voyage, the voyage will end immediately, the ship will return to the port of embarkation, and your subsequent travel, including your return home, may be restricted or delayed.

Cruise line guidelines and procedures have been established with CDC regulations and passenger and crew safety in mind. Companies say as they experience more cruises, they may find some practices work better than others, and would adjust accordingly.

Judy Colbert