(4:30 p.m. EDT) For the convenience of passengers who are now required to obtain a negative pre-cruise COVID-19 test only two days before arriving at the pier for cruises leaving from U.S. homeports, Royal Caribbean International has begun selling at-home test kits online via a special website.
The rapid antigen tests, approved by the FDA for Emergency Use Authorization, are supervised live over video by a telehealth representative, and are accepted only for vaccinated passengers residing in the United States. Guests can order test kids from the cruise line, shipped anywhere in the U.S., for $69.99 for a pack of two or $99.99 for a pack of three.
Specifically, the kits are Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Tests with eMed Telehealth Service. After you place your order, the kits arrive in three days or less, according to Royal Caribbean's website. You administer the nasal swab test yourself, under the watchful eyes of a telehealth rep, get your results within 15 minutes and receive verified negative test documentation to show at the pier.
Any passengers who test positive are advised to call the cruise line to rework their travel plans.
While a test pack could theoretically be split by family members, Royal Caribbean recommends each traveler purchase two tests in case “you lose or contaminate a part of the test, or have an error during the testing process.” That would amount to an expenditure of about $270 for a vaccinated family of four purchasing two three packs and one two-test pack.
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Under the two-day test requirement, passengers sailing on a Saturday would need to test on a Thursday or Friday. Those with departures on Sundays would need to be tested on Friday or Saturday, and so on.
Royal Caribbean is also accepting antigen tests that passengers purchase on their own, though the cruise line does not accept tests that are not telehealth-supervised. You can substitute a PCR test taken at your local pharmacy or via a health provider.
Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 are required to show a negative test result from a PCR test taken no more than three days before boarding; antigen tests not accepted for this group.
Canadian and international travelers residing outside the U.S. will need to complete testing requirements for COVID-19 at more standard venues, as these test-at-home kits are only approved for those residing in the United States.
However, international travelers arriving into the U.S. have a slight advantage, as proof of negative antigen test is already required in order to fly into the United States.