A new ruling will mean that, for the time being, passengers will not be allowed to go ashore unless they are on a cruise excursion booked through the cruiseline. Passengers not obeying this rule will be refused boarding on their return to the ship. Passengers with RCI and MSC have already fallen foul of this ruling, and have had to return home under their own steam.
Booking tours onboard, through the cruiseline, does have advantages. For example if the tour is delayed for any reason, such as a transport breakdown, the ship will wait for you. The tour operator will also have been vetted. However Cruiseline tours have a reputation for being expensive.
Many cruise passengers prefer to go ashore independently, often just exploring the port area on foot, perhaps doing some shopping, or calling for a coffee or a bite to eat. Many cruise ports also have local taxi drivers, busses, trains etc. all of which can be an economical way to enjoy the port. For these people having to fork out for expensive trips at every port or stay on ship could well be a deal breaker. Many will vote with their feet and wait till things return to normal.
Many cruiselines are insisting upon proof of a full vaccination, one or two jabs depending upon the vaccine, at least 2 weeks prior to embarkation, plus swab tests at the pier before boarding.
Ships have also upped their game installing HEPA filters, and UV anti bacterial systems. Some are also taking daily passenger temperatures.
Buffets are no longer self service, but will be served by chefs.
Hopefully some of these rules will be relaxed as the Covid 19 situation improves, but Cruise companies will be reluctant to act to quickly, in case of new variants, or spikes.
Also having been vaccinated does not necessarily mean you will not contract Covid.
Despite these inconveniences cruise bookings are very high, prices are reflecting this and there are not the cheap deals available we may have hoped for. Some say prices are around 20 percent higher than previously.