This past week, Royal Caribbean made several statements about vaccine requirements on cruise ships. Unfortunately, these new updates have us a bit concerned about our summer cruise on Odyssey of the Seas. Now, it appears Royal Caribbean is reversing its vaccination requirements on certain cruises. In fact, it seems that Royal Caribbean is caving to the Florida vaccine law.
Royal Caribbean Caves to Florida Vaccine Law
Royal Caribbean is restarting operations in North America from several cruise ports this summer.
First, Royal Caribbean is beginning operations this Saturday with Adventure of the Seas from Nassau, Bahamas. This sailing is for adults 16 years or older that are fully vaccinated. Children under 16 need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to board the ship. This requirement will change to 12+ as of August 1st.
All along, Royal Caribbean advertised this cruise was for fully-vaccinated cruisers only.
Since this announcement, Royal Caribbean Group CEO and Chairman Richard Fain has been vocal about the “power of vaccines”. On several social media videos, he has made statements that cruisers eligible for the vaccination will need one to sail with the cruise line.
Shortly after announcing the Adventure of the Seas cruises, Royal Caribbean announced its first U.S. homeport.
The cruise line revealed in May that two ships would sail to Alaska from Seattle, WA. Again, the cruise line mandated vaccinations for cruisers 16 years of age or older. Starting August 1st, the cruise line requires vaccinations for children 12 and older on Alaska cruises.
Children too young for the vaccine will need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test to board Alaska cruises.
Now, when it comes to sailing from other U.S. ports, Royal Caribbean is changing course. We first suspected that Royal Caribbean was not going to require COVID vaccines when they began announcing test cruises.
If you recall, cruise lines don’t need to do test cruises if they can attest that 95% of the passengers are vaccinated.
With 95% of passengers vaccinated, cruisers also do not need to adhere to many of the CDC’s health requirements. These include social distancing and face masks in both indoor and outdoor settings.
Royal Caribbean has announced test cruises for at least 5 ships thus far. One additional ship, Odyssey of the Seas, is all but confirmed for a test cruise on June 21st.
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Why Royal Caribbean Is Changing Its Vaccine Requirements
With these test cruises, Royal Caribbean also announced its return to operations this summer. The brand will resume U.S. operations from Florida in July.
By all accounts, the vaccine requirement will not apply to these cruises from Florida. Instead, Royal Caribbean is strongly “encouraging” cruisers to get the vaccination.
So, why the sudden change?
Well, it likely has to do with the Florida state laws. Last month, Florida passed a law banning businesses from requesting proof of vaccination in order to receive services. This would essentially ban “vaccine passports”.
So, businesses operating in Florida cannot deny individuals entry based on vaccination status.
Now, the governor of Florida has been vocal that this law does apply to cruise lines. The Governor has exchanged jabs with cruise line executives, such as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ CEO Frank Del Rio, about this law and the cruise line requirements. He has also threatened to fine Celebrity Cruises $5,000 per passenger for requiring proof of vaccination.
Royal Caribbean Fining Unvaccinated Cruisers
So, while Royal Caribbean executives have touted vaccines as the means to a safe resumption of cruising, the cruise line has now backed down from sparring with Florida officials.
Instead, they have come up with an apparent work around. Royal Caribbean will not prevent unvaccinated adults from boarding ships in Florida.
However, Royal Caribbean will impose different regulations for those passengers. Cruisers will have the option to show proof of vaccination at embarkation. If they are unwilling to do so, they will be treated as unvaccinated.
Now, unvaccinated adults will need to take a COVID-19 test at embarkation. This test will be at the cruiser’s expense. In addition, these cruisers will need to wear face masks on the ship in all public areas.
With Royal Caribbean no longer making vaccines mandatory, these cruises from Florida will likely have different protocols than sailings in Alaska or from the Bahamas.
With cruise ships sailing with less than 95% of passengers vaccinated, the CDC requires more rigorous health policies across the ship.
Of course, this change will also impact vaccinated cruisers. Thus, even inoculated cruisers will likely need to wear face masks indoors. Unless, the cruise line designates areas available to only vaccinated guests as proposed by the CDC. Or, the CDC issues new guidelines prior to these cruises setting sail in July.
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Impact of Royal Caribbean Changing its Vaccine Policy
Honestly, this situation was avoidable. If Florida did not pass this law, then the cruise lines would not be forced to create alternative rules.
In our opinion, ensuring all eligible adults have the vaccination is the safest way to resume cruising in the U.S. at this time.
With the cruise lines caving to Florida law, there is a greater likelihood that COVID-19 cases could occur on cruise ships. Unfortunately, the cruise lines are under extra scrutiny. Thus, all it takes is one small outbreak on a cruise ship to put a halt on the industry once again.
Also, we feel it is unfair to ask the crew to enforce that unvaccinated cruisers are adhering to different rules. How will the cruise line enforce this? How will crew members even identify cruisers without the vaccination?
Having two classes of adult cruisers makes things needlessly more difficult.
While we appreciate the cruise line’s attempt to work around the Florida law, it is certainly not an ideal situation. Unfortunately, there were two COVID-19 cases on the first cruise on Celebrity Millennium from St. Maarten this past week. In fact, this cruise is sailing with a vaccine requirement.
These two cases on Celebrity Millennium were asymptomatic, and there have been no other positive cases among passengers. This proves that the current protocols in place and high vaccination rates work in controlling the spread of the disease on cruise ships.
Perhaps, this incident will encourage the cruise lines to put pressure on Florida regarding the ban on vaccine proof for sailings from that state.
So far, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line have indicated that they will sail fully vaccinated cruises this summer. These lines have not provided any updates yet on how they will handle Florida’s ban.
Do you think Royal Caribbean is caving to the Florida vaccine law? Should cruise lines require vaccinations for cruisers? Drop us an anchor below with your reaction to this recent cruise news.