Social Distancing and Cruise Ships: Here’s Where it’ll be Enforced Onboard


If you are considering taking a cruise, you might be wondering if you’re going to have to adhere to social distancing rule while on board.

Do You Have to Social Distance on a Cruise?

All guests taking a cruise do have to adhere to social distancing measures. Social distancing affects almost every element of the cruising experience and all cruise ships have been modified in order to allow guests to social distance appropriately.

During this article, we’re going to have a look at what social distancing measures are currently in place on cruise ships, where they are enforced, who you have to social distance from, and how long this is likely to go on for.

What Social Distancing Rules Are Currently in Place?

Each cruise line has their own procedures and guidelines when it comes to social distancing onboard their ships.

Most cruise lines have looked to health institutes like the CDC for guidance on what social distancing measures should be in place.

At present, the social distancing requirements on a cruise are that you have to be at least 6ft between guests whenever possible.

It is likely that as social distancing measures change on land this change will be reflected at sea.

Where Are Social Distancing Rules in Place on a Cruise?

On a cruise, you have to social distance wherever it is possible to do so.

Social distancing is difficult at certain times, such as embarkation and muster drill. At times where social distancing can not adhered to, guests are required to wear masks.

Social distancing will happen in the following places:

  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Public Spaces
  • Walking Around The Ship
  • Embarkation/Disembarkation
  • Excursions
  • Elevators

The general guidelines are that guests should keep as much distance between them and other guests as possible at all times.

To see how these measures work in practice, check out the video below:

How Have The Ships Changed to Accommodate Social Distancing?

Cruise ships have had to change quite a lot to be able to incorporate social distancing measures.

You’ll find extra space in the restaurants and bars and the tables and chairs physically moved to provide extra space.

You may also see things around the ship such as one way, systems stickers on the floor, and barriers in order to guide the guests around.

Do Guests Have to Social Distance in The Buffet?

Guests eating in the buffet on a cruise do have to social distance. You’ll also find screens, one-way systems, and stickers on the floor which show guests where to stand. The purpose of these measures is to make sure that the passengers are able to adequately social distance.

Many things such as the buffet have changed dramatically, you will find the crew wearing masks and food will be served to you instead of you serving yourself.

Many venues will also have limited capacity in order to accommodate the social distancing needed.

Do Guests Have to Social Distance at Muster Drills?

Guests attending muster drills on cruises do have to social distance or wear a mask where social distancing isn’t possible.

Things such as muster drills, where it is going to be very difficult to social distance may change completely.

Royal Caribbean have released a virtual muster drill, where guests are able to complete the majority of the drill on their phones, just visiting their muster station to check in.

If a cruise line is not able to do a virtual muster drill, they’ll more than likely hold multiple smaller muster drills, rather than the big muster drills that we are used to, where all guests attend at the same time.

To learn more about why it’s a legal requirement that all guests attend a muster drill, including what happens if you don’t, check out this post:

Do Guests Have to Social Distance at Embarkation and Disembarkation?

Embarkation times are staggered in order to help guests social distance. Social distancing measures are in place in the cruise terminal such as cordoned off chairs and stickers on the floor to indicate where guests should stand. Disembarkation will be similar.

In the past. cruise lines have been quite relaxed on embarkation times, letting guests embark whenever they feel like they want to. This isn’t the case anymore, as the cruise line needs to be able to control the flow of passengers.

The same goes for disembarkation although this has always been more staggered than embarkation.

How Can Cruise Lines Make This Extra Space?

Cruise ships sailing at reduced capacity are able to make the extra space. When cruise ships return to 100% capacity sailings, it’s unlikely that the cruise lines will be able to maintain such strict social distancing measures.

Who do Guests Have to Social Distance From on a Cruise?

Guests taking a cruise have to social distance from the other guests, but they don’t have to social distance from anybody that they’re cruising with.
Guests are able to eat dinner or go to a bar or restaurant with members of your own cruise party.

That said, on some cruise lines, social distancing measures in place in the theatres mean that every other seat is cordoned off.

In this situation, people, even from the same cruise party, would have to sit with a seat in between them.

This is just because logistically it’s very difficult for them to keep moving around, which chairs are open for sitting in.

Generally speaking, you don’t have to social distance from the people that you’re cruising with. You’re already sharing a cabin and chances are you’re either a family or a friendship group so it doesn’t really make sense for you to have to social distance.

If you were somewhere like the top deck, the sun loungers and chairs are going to be moved to allow for space between. If you are cruising together, you’ll be able to sit together.

Do You Have to Social Distance From The Crew?

During your cruise, you’ll probably still come into contact with quite a few crew members. This is almost impossible to avoid and for this reason, the crew of cruise ships do wear masks.

Crew that don’t need to be in contact with passengers will stay away as much as possible.

Ths social distancing of the crew is covered in the guidelines provided by the healthy start panel (Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line). For more information on this, check out the full post here:

How Long Will Social Distancing on a Cruise Last For?

It’s unclear at the moment how long social distancing measures will last for.

It’s likely that as long as social distancing is a part of life on land, it will be on cruise ships too.

Going forward, as more and more passengers do cruise, it will be more difficult to maintain social distancing, and cruise lines will probably get less strict on this.

To conclude: Guests taking a cruise do have to social distance when they are in public areas. If social distancing isn’t possible a face mask must be worn.

To learn more about where you have to wear a mask on a cruise, and when you don’t, check out this post:

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Emma Le Teace

Hey! I'm Emma. A cruise blogger, YouTuber and founder of the 'Cruising Isn't Just For Old People' Facebook community and website. You can learn more here: About Me.

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