Canada is preparing for a safe return for the cruise season this April with several new public health measures.
Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra announced Monday (March 7) that Canada has developed a comprehensive public health plan for cruise ships that will require both crew and passengers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Crew and passengers must also self-monitor for symptoms and undergo testing before boarding a vessel and prior to disembarkation.
“As Canadians continue to do their part by stepping up and rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and practising public health measures, our government continues to work hard to restart our economy safely and sustainably," he said.
"We welcome cruise ships—an important part of our tourism sector—back to Canada, and we will continue working with partners to support this important industry.”
Cruise lines must also adhere to a "strict health framework with three major components," including COVID-19 management plans, a ship-to-shore checklist, and testing and reporting requirements.
The COVID-19 management plans include measures to prevent transmission prior to boarding the ships and throughout the voyage (such as in ports), as well as measures to detect and isolate any confirmed cases of the virus.
The ship-to-shore checklist requires a COVID-19 management plan, preventative measures (such as face masks and physical distancing), hygiene measures, and staff training.
What to know before you go
Pre-boarding a cruise ship
All crew and passengers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to board a cruise ship. And while children under 12 may be permitted onboard without showing proof of vaccination, some cruise lines may require children 5 and up to be vaccinated.
There may be some other exemptions, including a medical contradiction or religious belief, but these exemptions may only be permitted under strict guidelines. You must contact the cruise line prior to your cruise to submit your exemption.
Passengers must also take a COVID-19 molecular test within 72-hours before boarding a cruise ship or take an antigen test within one day of the scheduled departure.
ArriveCAN App used for cruising
All cruisers must submit their mandatory information via ArriveCAN (free mobile app or website), including proof of vaccination and a quarantine plan prior to arriving in Canada.
Find out how to use the app with Vancouver Is Awesome's guide.
During the voyage
Crew and passengers are required to self-monitor for symptoms throughout the duration of the voyage.
- The cruise line is responsible for:
- testing (using an antigen test) of suspected cases;
- testing (using a molecular test) to confirm positive cases;
- isolating positive cases; and
- testing close contacts of the positive case(s).
Disembarking a cruise ship in Canada
Passengers must take a COVID-19 molecular test within 72-hours before arriving in Canada or take an antigen test within one day of the scheduled arrival. Once they disembark, they must monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days after arrival in Canada as per the Quarantine, Isolation and Other Obligations Order.
What happens if someone tests positive while onboard?
Transport Canada cautions that COVID-19 still remains a risk to cruise ship passengers. If someone develops symptoms or tests positive for the virus, they will be isolated from the rest of the guests. After the voyage ends, the cruise line is responsible for arranging accommodations for passenger isolation.
Should a significant number of cases appear on a cruise ship, elements of the COVID-19 Management Plan will be activated, and public health measures implemented to manage cases and potential contacts, including:
- isolating additional passengers onboard the cruise ship;
- conducting medical examinations; and
- moving passengers to an alternate shore location.
Should you cruise outside of Canada?
Travellers should consider the availability of medical services in a foreign country, and plan for the potential high costs associated with medical treatment and extending their trip, should they test positive for COVID-19 while abroad.
You could be subject to quarantine procedures onboard the ship or in a foreign country if an outbreak occurs. If you’re infected with COVID-19, you won’t be able to return to Canada on a public flight until 10 days have passed. You shouldn’t depend on the Government of Canada for assistance to change your travel plans.