Vaccinations are required on Independence of the Seas, which is sailing from Galveston, Texas, beginning mid-August.
Royal Caribbean Want to sail on a Royal Caribbean ship where vaccinations are mandated? The cruise line’s latest press release provides much-needed clarification on exactly how to do it — and it turns out that it’s as easy as steering clear of Florida.
“I think that’s a fair assessment,” said Celia de la Llama, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson, via email.
The cruise line’s announcement was necessary after a public relations misfire earlier this month, when the cruise operator announced that it would begin sailing in early July from Florida with ships where vaccinations will be recommended but not required — drawing many negative reactions across its social media channels and cruise message boards.
Royal Caribbean’s announcement makes it as crystal clear as the water at Perfect Day at CocoCay, the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas, that when it comes to vaccine protocols, the Sunshine State is a conspicuous outlier.
All passengers over 16 years old must be vaccinated for departures out of all U.S. ports — with the glaring exception of sailings from the country’s three biggest ports, in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis’ political brawl with the Centers of Disease Control and Protection has led to a state law prohibiting businesses from verifying the vaccination status of passengers.
The minimum age for the vaccination requirement will be lowered to 12 years beginning August 1, 2021, when the vaccine becomes available across the country to tweens and younger teens. Younger travelers not yet eligible for the vaccine will be able to sail with a negative test result and must follow certain protocols.
Royal Caribbean’s vaccine policies out of U.S. and Caribbean ports are remarkably consistent:
For cruises from Seattle, guests who are 16 years of age or older must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and those 12 or older as of August 1. For cruises from Texas, which begin in August, guests who are 12 years of age or older must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. For cruises from the Bahamas, guests who are 16 years of age or older must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and those 12 or older as of August 1. For cruises from Florida, “we are strongly recommending all guests eligible for vaccines are fully vaccinated when sailing from Florida ports,” said de la Llama. “We expect approximately 90% of our guests will be vaccinated, based on regular surveys.”
Unvaccinated passengers will have additional hoops to jump through. “Guests who choose not to be vaccinated or not willing to verify vaccination will be subject to testing, which will be at their expense, and additional health protocols,” said de la Llama. “Kids not eligible for vaccines — under 12 from August 1 — who sail will be required to be tested, with costs covered by Royal Caribbean, and subject to health protocols.”
Alaska, anyone? Ovation of the Seas will take vaccinated passengers to view glaciers in the 49th state this summer.
Royal Caribbean The word “mask” does not appear in Royal Caribbean’s announcement, which was a missed opportunity for the cruise line to level with unvaccinated passengers that they will have to wear face masks on cruise ships.
Its sister cruise line, Celebrity Cruises, made that clear on a sales call with travel agents last week. As Dondra Ritzenthaler, senior VP of sales, trade support and service at Celebrity Cruises, walked hundreds of travel advisors through the protocols for summer sailings, a slide in her presentation described onboard policies for passengers. The first bullet point read: “Following CDC guidelines, masks will not be required for vaccinated guests and children under age 15.” The next one read: “Unvaccinated adult guests are required to wear a mask at all times except when eating or drinking or in their stateroom.”
Nine Royal Caribbean ships are set to cruise from ports in the U.S. and the Caribbean this summer — about half of them will sail out of Florida and the rest from other ports.
For Americans who prefer to sail without the uncertainty surrounding vaccine verifications in Florida, options include Serenade of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas, departing July 19 and August 13, respectively, from Seattle on 7-night Alaska glacier cruises; Independence of the Seas, kicking off from Galveston on August 15 on a 7-night Western Caribbean itinerary.
And don’t forget Adventure of the Seas, which is currently sailing from Nassau, the Bahamas, on a 7-night Bahamas and Cozumel cruise. “The ship set sail on June 12 with fully vaccinated crew and fully vaccinated guests 16 years of age or older, who make up 94% of all guests on board, while the remaining 6% of guests are children younger than 16,” said de la Llama.
The politicization of vaccine verification has done damage to Florida’s $8-billion cruise industry, which is already battling an image problem. Only half of Americans (50%) are confident that the cruise industry can reopen safely coming out of the pandemic, according to a recent Harris Poll Covid-19 tracker survey fielded in late May.
When asked whether they were confident that various industries could keep customers safe, respondents rated the cruise industry dead last, behind everyday businesses such as retail stores (82%), restaurants (80%), movie theaters (63%) and sports and concert venues (59%).
Notably, consumer confidence in the cruise industry’s ability to keep passengers safe also lags well behind other travel subcategories such as hotels (79%), airlines (69%) and amusement parks (63%).