After more than a year without cruising in U.S. waters, cruise lines’ ships are slowly receiving approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sail. 

But not all approvals are equal.

Some ships are being approved by the CDC to sail with paying passengers while others are being approved to operate test cruises – the main difference being whether the cruise line will require eligible passengers of a specific ship to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The decision to mandate vaccines on board varies not only by cruise line but also by cruise ship. 

“Each cruise ship that intends to sail must be approved,” Caitlin Shockey, CDC spokesperson, told USA TODAY, noting that at least one test cruise must be conducted for each ship before that ship can be approved to resume sailing with paying passengers.

Test cruises will sail with unpaid volunteer passengers and will have at least 10% passenger capacity. The simulated sailings can last two to seven days.

All volunteers for test cruises must be 18 years of age or older, but passengers aren’t required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, though if they aren’t, they must have written documentation from a health care provider or must self certify that they aren’t at a heightened risk for COVID-19, according to the CDC.

In lieu of a test cruise, cruise ship operators may choose to require vaccines and agree to a CDC inspection of records in order to verify that 95% of crew members are vaccinated. They also have to submit a plan for how they will mandate and verify that 95% of passengers have been vaccinated before sailing, Shockey said.

USA TODAY is breaking down which ships are approved to sail by the CDC, when, where and what their plans are. The approval process is ongoing and this list will be updated. 

A dock worker waits for the Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas to pull into its berthing spot at Port Everglades on June 10, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Odyssey of The Seas will hold its first passenger cruise on July 3 through the Caribbean. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

Carnival Cruise Line cruises

Carnival Vista has been approved to sail with paying passengers from the Port of Galveston, Texas, starting on July 3 for a seven-day sailing. 

Carnival Breeze has been approved to sail with paying passengers from Port of Galveston, starting on July 15 for a four-day sailing.

Carnival Cruise Line: Will require COVID vaccine for first cruises in US waters in July

Royal Caribbean International cruises 

Freedom of the Seas has been approved for a two-day test cruise departing June 20 from PortMiami, Florida, with no stops.

Allure of the Seas has been approved for a two-day test cruise departing July 27 from Port Canaveral, Florida, with no stops.

Symphony of the Seas has been approved for a two-day test cruise departing Aug. 1 from PortMiami with no stops.

Independence of the Seas has been approved for a two-day test cruise departing Aug. 1 from Galveston with no stops.

Mariner of the Seas has been approved for a two-day test cruise departing Aug. 11 from Port Canaveral with no stops.

Royal Caribbean: First cruise line to receive CDC approval for a test sailing in US waters

Celebrity Cruises cruises

Celebrity Edge has been approved to sail with paying passengers from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting on June 26 with a seven-night cruise through the Caribbean.

Celebrity Equinox has been approved to sail with paying passengers from Fort Lauderdale starting on July 25 with a seven-night cruise stopping at ports in Mexico and the Bahamas.

Celebrity Cruises is first cruise line: To receive CDC approval to sail with paying passengers in June

Disney Cruise Line cruises

Disney Dream has been approved to operate a test cruise from Port Canaveral on June 29 for a two-night sailing with a visit to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. 

MSC Cruises cruises

MSC Meraviglia has been approved to sail from PortMiami on July 17. Details of the itinerary are being finalized, Paige Rosenthal, spokesperson for MSC, told USA TODAY.

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