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If you are planning to take a cruise in the near future, your cruise line will require you to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test (taken within two days of embarkation); failure to do so may result in you being denied boarding! While Virgin Cruise Line is administering the test in their Miami cruise terminal, most cruise lines like Celebrity and Royal Caribbean expect you to take care of the testing yourself. 

Here are three ways to get tested prior to your cruise. 

Pharmacy Testing

Pharmacy Covid Test for TravelAt my local pharmacy (CVS in Fort Worth, TX), I had to make an appointment online and download their phone app. They instructed me to make an appointment and take the test in my car at the drive-through window. I felt cramped and awkward in my little car and I ended up dropping the lid for the specimen under my seat. Fortunately, my pharmacist was very gracious and didn’t complain when he had to break out another test kit. Also, since I’m not a testing professional, I was overly aggressive with the swabbing. After I collected the sample collection, I left the collection in the box, and the pharmacy sent the results to an off-site lab for testing. Before I left, the pharmacist warned me the results could take up to 24 hours…and it did. I fretted the entire 24 hours until the results arrived.
The test was free because I had insurance. The cost w/out insurance through CVS was $139, which includes $100 for the independent laboratory that processes the test and $39 for the MinuteClinic visit. Interestingly, my local family-owned compounding pharmacy charges $75 for the test and does not accept insurance. 
If you choose to use a pharmacy, ask the following questions:
  1. Is the test covered by insurance? If not, or if you don’t have insurance, how much is it? Prices vary!
  2. Are the samples tested on-site or sent off to a lab? If a lab is used, how quickly can you expect the results and are the results guaranteed to be back in time?  

Home Test Kit

At Home Covid Test for TravelLast Summer I purchased the Abbott BinaxNOWTM COVID-19 home test for an upcoming trip to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. Neither Mexico nor the resort required the test, but I wanted to take a COVID-19 test before my vacation becuse who wants to get on a plane and travel when sick? Not me! 
How it works:
Your test kit includes a personal virtual visit with an eMed Certified Guide who will help you properly administer the test and third party verify the result. You must provide your official eMed Labs report in order to board your cruise. The report is provided via email and can be printed or displayed on screen to provide proof.
I ordered online from the Optum Store and received the test three days later. Since there are two tests in a kit, I asked my traveling partner to try the home test and report back to me about her experience while I gave CVS’s drive-through testing a try. Unfortunately, her report was not good! She waited on hold for a guide for over three hours and gave up! Keep in mind that was in early September 2021. Since then, the company seems to have staffed up because I have several colleagues who reported using this test in October and waiting no longer than 15 minutes for a guide and another 15 minutes for the results. These tests are so popular many cruise lines are recommending it.
The Abbott home test (two boxes for $69.99). This is a good option for folks who don’t have insurance or don’t want to leave home to get tested. 

Urgent Care Center Testing

Urgent Care Covid Test for TravelFor my recent cruise on the Celebrity Apex, I went to a local urgent care center. I didn’t have to make an appointment. I just showed up, and they got me immediately in. Once in the exam room, the nurse gently collected the sample and performed the analysis on-site, and I walked out 15 minutes later with the results in hand. So easy! I didn’t have to download and app or communicate via a tel-med style call. In my opinion, this is the easiest way to get tested prior to your cruise. The one exception to this would be if that particular MedExpress had been busy. I would have had to wait to get it. As it was on that day, I went in the morning and there was no wait. There are other urgent care centers in my city that take appointments. I chose this one because it was so close to my home. 
If you have insurance, it’s free. For those without insurance, MedExpress charges range from $119-229 based on your state and the type of COVID-19 test that is required.

If you choose to use an urgent care center near you call ahead to find out if they charge a fee for the service, if they take appointments, and if they test the results in house.