The ongoing saga between the cruise industry and the CDC has been one of the stories of the pandemic. From outright banning cruises in March 2020 to watching cruises begin to restart in recent weeks, it seems the saga has finally reached an end – but not without another twist in the tale.
Cruise industry giants Royal Caribbean scrapped their vaccination requirement for prospective travelers out of Florida and Texas over the weekend, a significant climb down in the wake of threats from the state of Florida. Here’s everything you need to know about this decision, and why it was taken and other cruises they have planned.
Vaccines Optional – What Travelers Should Know
Just two weeks ago, Royal Caribbean made headlines when they became the first cruise line to gain CDC approval to start their simulated voyages, or test cruises as they are commonly referred to. At the time of their application to the CDC, Royal Caribbean’s CEO Richard Fain spoke of how he expected “all of our guests who are eligible for a vaccine to have it,” and proof of vaccination was a requirement for passengers aged 16 and older.
However, in a dramatic reversal of policy, this is now no longer the case. A news release by the cruise heavyweights on Friday revealed that whilst guests are strongly recommended to be vaccinated, it is not a requirement. The website says:
“Guests are strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible. Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date.”
The Royal Caribbean website states that vaccines are only required for cruises departing from Seattle or the Bahamas – meaning the only states where no vaccines are required are Florida and Texas. Whilst not explicitly mentioned, it is believed that the reversal in policy comes following Florida’s ban of vaccine passports and the implication it could have upon sailing out of the nation’s cruising capital.
Any breaches of Florida’s vaccination passport law could incur a costly fine of $5,000 per customer questioned about their vaccination status, with the state’s refusal to back down seemingly one of the causes of the reversal in policy. Royal Caribbean is set to launch cruises from two Florida ports, Canaveral and Miami, this summer. Similarly, Texas – home to Port Galveston where test cruises are also scheduled to be departing from – has also implemented laws against vaccination requirements, which may have also influenced the decision.
Whilst the passengers may not be vaccinated, the crew on board the ships will be, and Royal Caribbean has introduced several measures to ensure customer safety on board. Such measures include fresh, filtered air through the HVAC systems, medical-grade cleaning standards, upgraded medical facilities with more doctors and nurses on board and protocols to get passengers home safely in the event of an outbreak.
Royal Caribbean Announces More Cruises – Information For Travelers
Royal Caribbean recently announced their plans for more cruises for travelers – providing that they receive approval following their test cruises. Such cruises include:
- Freedom of the Seas: 3/4 nights from Miami to Bahamas from July 2nd
- Odyssey of the Seas: 6/8 night Southern and Western Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale on July 3rd
- Serenade of the Seas: 7-night Alaska sailings from Seattle from July 19th
- Allure of the Seas: 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, starting August 8th
- Ovation of the Seas: 7-night Alaska cruises setting sail from Seattle, from August 13th
- Symphony of the Seas: 7-night Western Caribbean cruises from Miami, beginning on August 15th
- Independence of the Seas: 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises from Galveston, Texas, beginning August 15th
- Mariner of the Seas: 3/4 nights Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay from Port Canaveral, from August 23rd.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com