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River cruise lines were quick to implement new health protocols last year. And that’s on top of the added complexity of travelling across multiple country borders, something their oceangoing colleagues don’t have to deal with. Now they have some of the safest practices on the water.

First and foremost, before you take a river cruise again, you’ll need to ensure you meet the vaccination requirements.

Scenic, Viking, Uniworld and Avalon Waterways are among the cruise lines that require proof of full vaccination before you can set sail aboard their ships. Before you embark on your journey you will need to show proof that you have been fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine. The approved vaccines are Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, Moderna and Janssen.

Many of the travel destinations you’ll be sailing to require proof of vaccination as well. You’ll need to show that you are fully vaccinated to get into museums, restaurants and historical sites. You should ensure that you bring proof of your vaccination status with you so that you can enter venues.

Accepted forms of proof include a printed vaccine certificate or digital evidence you’ve been vaccinated at least two weeks before departure. If you’re taking a river cruise to Egypt, you’ll have to show a printed vaccine certificate with a QR code. You’ll also be required to fill out a health declaration before departure.

Children who are not eligible to be vaccinated will be asked to supply a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours prior to departure.

As COVID policies vary between countries, it’s recommended you check the requirements in the country you’re visiting. Some countries ask that cruise passengers have a COVID test before they disembark. Uniworld and Scenic are among the cruise lines that will facilitate mid-cruise testing so that any illness can quickly be detected. You may also need to have a test three days before you disembark from the ship.

Viking, Scenic, Uniworld and Avalon river cruise ships are all equipped with medical centres, so if you feel unwell you can seek treatment. If it’s been determined that you have COVID, you and any of your close contacts will be asked to self-isolate in your room and arrangements will be made to repatriate you to your home country for medical treatment.

Having medical treatment on a cruise ship can be expensive, so it’s advised that you obtain travel insurance prior to departure to ensure you are protected should you get sick.

All of the aforementioned cruise lines have mask policies in place, so if you are in a public area such as a dining room, near the pool on the deck or in a corridor, you should wear a mask. You can bring your own or head to the guest services counter on board and they will supply you with one. Some locations require a respirator mask, such as an FFP2, N95/99 or KN95.

Some suggest travellers pack their own hand sanitiser so that they can regularly sanitise your hands, however, every cruise line has dispensers throughout their ships.

All of the cruise lines are cleaning their ships multiple times a day, sometimes hourly, or after use in high-traffic areas.

They have also partnered with onshore companies who adhere to their strict cleaning protocols. For example, if you’re taking a motor coach, it will be cleaned before and after your trip, and social distancing will be observed, so you’ll travel in smaller groups than before the pandemic.

The cruise lines have also updated their air circulation systems, so that no air will be recirculated between rooms in the ship. Any air will come directly from the outside, so you can be confident that you’re not breathing in contaminated air.

As the COVID pandemic is a constantly evolving situation, cruise lines are also in regular consultation with governments around the world and medical experts to review their health and safety protocols.