The coronavirus pandemic is not over, but the US is doing a better job of managing it. People can still get infected, but the easy availability of vaccines and new treatments have kept U.S. hospitals from being seriously ill.
Much of the country has just survived the Covid-19 pandemic. You may see people opting to wear masks in some places in public, but the country has been fully reopening for months.
The cruise industry lags behind other tourism industries.That’s because Royal Caribbean International (RCL) – Get the Royal Caribbean Group reportCarnival Cruise Line (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation ReportNorwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd reportwhile the rest of the cruise ships sailing from U.S. ports are regulated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
That changed just a few weeks ago when the CDC decided to halt its coronavirus tracing program on cruise ships. The government agency did provide guidance for the cruise industry, but it even discontinued its voluntary monitoring program.
This has led companies such as Virgin Voyage, Royal Caribbean and Carnival to either abandon pre-cruise covid testing entirely (Virgin) or only require it on voyages of 6 nights and above (Royal Caribbean and Carnival). Virgin Atlantic has also eased vaccine requirements. Previously, all passengers on adults-only ships had to be vaccinated. Now, up to 10% of passengers can sail without vaccinations.
READ: Carnival follows Royal Caribbean to make key Covid changes
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Now, just days after Virgin Voyage’s policy changed, Royal Caribbean has changed its vaccination rules.
Royal Caribbean changes its vaccine requirements
For much of the pandemic, all passengers 12 and older must demonstrate that they have been fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to sailing since returning to cruise ships from U.S. ports in July 2021. Now, the cruise line has changed quite a bit, and President Michael Bailey shared the news on social media, which was first reported by the Royal Caribbean Blog, which is not affiliated with the cruise line.
“Unvaccinated guests will be required to take a test within 3 days of departure. We will also continue to operate highly vaccinated cruises where more people are vaccinated than society, and continue to exempt children 12 and under, we will welcome Unvaccinated guests over 12 and those with proof of recovery within 90 days keep in mind that our ships typically sail with 80% and more of our vaccinated guests,” he shared.
That’s lower than Virgin Atlantic’s 90 per cent vaccination threshold, but Royal Caribbean has been vaccinating around 90 per cent on its ships because it allows children under 12 not to be vaccinated. Bailey did not share how the cruise line would assign seats to unvaccinated passengers.
Cruise lines have cancelled all pre-sail testing for sailings of less than 6 nights. In all cases, if the rules at the destination differ from the cruise itinerary, the agreement for the particular voyage may vary. Destinations may also choose to not allow unvaccinated passengers to disembark, or in some cases require all visitors to wear masks.