Skip to Content

Which COVID-19 Tests Do You Need For an MSC British Isles Cruise (2021)?

If you are taking a British Isles cruise with MSC in the summer of 2021, you may be wondering which COVID tests you need.

Without the correct COVID tests completed at the right time, the guest would be denied boarding.

I have booked a British Isles cruise with MSC for May 2021 and have consulted many sources (including MSC) to produce this article.

MSC Cruises British Isles 2021, Vaccination and Testing Requirements

All guests taking a British Isles cruise with MSC in 2021 must either:

  • Be fully vaccinated PLUS have a coronavirus test at the port.
  • Take a coronavirus test before the ship sails (less than 72 hours before the cruise) PLUS have a coronavirus test at the port.

Fully vaccinated means that both doses of the vaccine have been given at least 14 days before the cruise sets sail. For the purposes of this, a person who has had one vaccination would not be considered vaccinated and would need to complete the at-home test.

covid tests for msc cruise rapid antigen

Which COVID Tests are Acceptable for the ‘At Home’ COVID Test (For Non-Vaccinated Guests)

The COVID tests taken at home before an MSC British Isles cruise in 2021 can either be lateral flow or PCR tests. There are no specific brands needed or specific companies that tests need to be booked with.

Some testing centres will provide ‘fit to fly’ certificates for guests who are planning a flight, this is not a requirement for an MSC cruise.

All unvaccinated or partially vaccinated guests will need to take a lateral flow (antigen) or PCR (molecular) swab test within 72 hours prior to the ship’s departure.


What Is The Difference Between a Lateral Flow and PCR Tests?

Lateral flow tests are usually used when a person has no symptoms and PCR tests when a person does have symptoms. Lateral flow tests do not need a laboratory and can be completed by anybody anywhere, PCR tests however require a laboratory for results.

Both tests require a swab of the nose and/or throat.

If completing a test at home it is likely that a Lateral Flow test will be completed. Many Lateral Flow tests show results within 30 minutes.

Where Can You Get a COVID 19 Test From?

At Home Rapid Lateral Flow Tests (Free)

Everybody in the UK can now get coronavirus tests sent home for free. With 1/3rd of people with Coronavirus having no symptoms, the NHS is keen for everybody to do twice weekly Coronavirus tests at home.

I’d strongly recommend that you order some of these tests and do them, regardless of cruising. Make them an addition to your life, in my house Sundays and Wednesdays are test days for me.

I’ve been doing the tests for a while and they’re incredibly easy.

Results are shown within 30 minutes.

covid tests for msc cruise nhs

How to do at Home COVID 19 Tests:

  • Order a pack of 7 tests here or pick up tests from most pharmacies.
  • Take the test within 72 hours of your cruise departure.
    I’d recommend taking the tests 2x weekly as soon as you get them (to reduce your risk of spreading coronavirus without knowing and so that you are practiced in logging in the results).
  • Log the result with the NHS, either using the website or by phone.
  • Bring evidence to the cruise port when embarking, this will be required.

Booking a COVID-19 Test

There are many places that now offer COVID tests for a charge. These can range from £50-£250 per person and a slot will usually have to be booked ahead of time.

Chemists such as boots and airports often have COVID testing facilities available.

Many bookable tests will be PCR tests but in some places Rapid Lateral Flow tests are available too.

At-Home Testsite.Rapid Lateral FlowFree
Bootssite.PCR Test£99
Medicspotsite.PCR Test£210
Heathrow Airport (others available) site.Rapid Lateral Flow£50

Which Option is Best?

I am usually nervous about suggesting that people use NHS resources when other resources are available, but as the NHS wants everybody to regularly take the at-home rapid lateral flow tests (particularly if not working from home, volunteering, or caring for others) I believe that this is the best and easiest option.

I would encourage everybody to take the twice weekly tests regardless of cruising. They arrive very quickly, are so easy to do and do help to reduce the spread of Coronavirus, particularly in those with no symptoms.

The free tests only take 30 minutes and don’t require you to leave the house at all.

Paid options are available for those who want it but the free test results are accepted by MSC.

What Proof of Test Results is Required?

When boarding the ship all un-vaccinated guests will be asked to provide proof that they have had a negative Coronavirus test result within 72 hours.

Proof of a negative test result will be requested at the terminal and we will accept evidence such as an email, SMS, or a printed document. 


If completing the test and logging it at home, you will be able to select how you would like your results to be presented. I selected the email and SMS option and instantly was provided with a test and email detailing my test results. This would simply be shown at the port.

If paying a private company, the amount of time you’ll have to wait for the test results may vary. Make sure you check this before booking.

A Second Test Will be Required at The Port

ALL guests will have to have a COVID test at the cruise port. For vaccinated guests, this is the only test that is required, for non-vaccinated guests this will be the second test.

Guests will be tested by crew members at the cruise port and will then await results before being allowed to board.

Children under the age of 2 do not have to have a Coronavirus test.

In Summary:

Guests taking a British Isles cruise with MSC in 2021, can either complete an at-home lateral flow test or can book a private test. Acceptable tests are either lateral flow or PCR tests. Proof of a negative test result must be shown when embarking and must be completed within 72 hours.

I recently interviewed passengers and crew members on an MSC cruise, to learn what it’s like onboard an MSC cruise now, click here:

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.