"However, masks may be required in certain venues and events," Carnival wrote in its guest protocols.
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Carnival Miracle Cruise -5-Day Baja Mexico from San Francisco
Credit: Courtesy of Carnival

Carnival Cruise Line won't require masks on board starting next month, making the company the latest cruise line to ditch mandatory face coverings.

"Effective with sailings departing March 1, masks are recommended on board but not required," the company wrote under its guest protocols. "However, masks may be required in certain venues and events. Please pay close attention to onboard signage."

The new policy comes after Carnival strengthened mask protocols in December amid the emergence of the omicron variant. Currently, passengers 2 years old and older are required to wear masks in indoor public spaces, except when eating and drinking, as well as during embarkation and debarkation and during any Carnival-approved shore excursions.

In addition to updating its mask policy, Carnival will change its pre-boarding testing rules. Starting March 1, passengers who are "up to date" with their vaccines — which includes getting a booster shot when eligible for one — will be allowed to take a test within three days of sailing. Those who are vaccinated and eligible for a booster but have not received one must get tested within two days of their trip.

Carnival requires all guests to be vaccinated to board a cruise, with limited exceptions granted for children and guests who provide a doctor's note saying they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. After March 1, the cruise line will not require children under 5 to apply for a vaccine exemption but will require them to follow other protocols for unvaccinated guests like strict testing rules.

The cruise line is the latest company to relax its onboard protocols. Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, has started allowing unvaccinated children under 5 years old to sail and dropped all mask requirements, while Royal Caribbean also eliminated mask requirements in vaccinated-only areas of its ships.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also lowered its warning on cruise ship travel to a "Level 3," far less dire than when the agency previously classified it as a "Level 4" and recommended people "avoid" cruise travel altogether. The CDC is also recommending travelers ensure they "are up to date" with their COVID-19 vaccines before getting on a ship.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.