Preventing or limiting the spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships


The Government of Canada is committed to the restart of the cruise season in Canada with mitigation measures in place for COVID-19. Transport Canada—alongside the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency, other orders of government, the U.S. government, transportation industry stakeholders, Indigenous Peoples, and Arctic communities—are working together to ensure measures are in place and cruise ship travel is as COVID-19-safe as possible.

The ability to welcome cruise ships back to our waters is possible because Canadians have stepped up, rolled up their sleeves, gotten vaccinated, and followed public health measures.

The industry has made the safe return of cruise ships to Canadian waters possible by committing to a comprehensive set of enhanced safety protocols on board, including vaccinations, enhanced hygiene practices, and passenger screening, as outlined below, based on the best available science.

The Government of Canada continues to advise travellers to proceed with caution, and will continue to evaluate measures and will not hesitate to make adjustments to keep Canadians and the transportation system safe and secure.

Cruise line operator obligations

In Canada, as a condition of sailing, cruise lines will be required to adhere to a strict health framework with three major components:

1. COVID-19 management plans
Measures to prevent or limit the introduction and/or spread onboard cruise ships, which include:

  • Pre-boarding measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19;
  • Measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19 onboard;
  • Measures to prevent transmission during shore excursions and port visits;
  • Measures to isolate suspected and/or confirmed cases of COVID-19; and
  • Preparedness and response for suspected and/or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

2. Ship-to-Shore checklist
Measures to prevent or limit the spread of COVID-19 during the onboarding and disembarking of passengers at a port. These must account for:

  • A COVID-19 management plan, which includes an outbreak management plan;
  • Mask use and physical distancing according to local/provincial health guidelines;
  • Hygiene measures, cleaning, and disinfecting; and
  • Staff education and training.

3. Testing and reporting requirements
Under the Quarantine, Isolation and Other Obligations Order, the Prohibition of Entry Order, and the Transport Canada Interim Order, cruise lines and passengers will need to adhere to strict requirements for testing at key checkpoints, and are required to report back to the Government of Canada.

Cruise Lines obligations

  • Pre-boarding a cruise ship
    • Crew and passengers are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Very limited exemptions to this requirement include:
      • Children under 12 (note, many cruise lines require vaccination for children 5 and up);
      • Proof of a Medical contraindication; or
      • Religious belief (only for those with a right of entry to Canada, including Canadians and those boarding in Canada).
        • Canadians include citizens, people registered under the Indian Act, and permanent residents.
        • Under the Quarantine Act border measures, a foreign national cannot enter Canada via a cruise ship or any other mode of transportation with a religious belief exemption.
    • Verify the pre-embarkation test results and health status of passengers.
    • Exemption requests must be submitted to cruise lines, who will need to report back to Transport Canada.
  • During a voyage
    • Crew and passengers are required to self-monitor for symptoms;
    • 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
    • The cruise line must report symptomatic or positive passengers and/or crew to Transport Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the port, and the local/provincial public health unit.

Passenger obligations

  • Pre-boarding a cruise ship
    • Passengers must 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.
    • Before their cruise departs, a traveller will need to enter their trip information into the ArriveCAN website.
    • Passengers seeking a medical contraindication or religious belief exemption will need to contact their cruise line to see if these are permitted. These exemptions are very limited.
  • During a voyage
    • Passengers are required to self-monitor for symptoms and report them to cruise line officials, who will then take appropriate action (testing, isolation, and contact tracing).
  • Disembarking a cruise ship in Canada
    • Effective April 1, 2022, fully vaccinated travellers on cruise ships will no longer need to take a COVID-19 molecular test before disembarking in Canada. All on board, including crew and passengers, must continue to monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days after arrival in Canada as per the Quarantine, Isolation and Other Obligations Order.

If there are cases of COVID-19 on board a cruise ship

Even with measures in place, COVID-19 remains a risk to cruise ship passengers. Passengers may develop COVID-19 symptoms or test positive during a cruise. If this occurs, a passenger can expect to be isolated on board the ship and not be able to take part in communal activities. At the end of their cruise, it will be the cruise line’s responsibility to arrange for COVID-19-safe accommodations for passenger isolation that meet the Quarantine, Isolation and Other Obligations Order requirements.

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.

Additional mandatory public health measures—either through the Public Health Agency of Canada or the provincial public health unit—would be taken to mitigate the risk for additional transmission of COVID-19 within Canada.


Cruise passengers travelling to Canada must submit their information on the web-based version of ArriveCAN to provide mandatory travel information before boarding their cruise ship to report on signs or symptoms of COVID-19.

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