Among all the cruise news in the last few weeks, the most disconcerting for Canadians is the concern around vaccination plans for cruise lines. Especially now that most cruise lines have said they will follow CDC guidelines as they return to US waters. That means they do not accept ‘mixed vaccines’ but only double doses of mRNA shots to consider a guest fully vaccinated.
More confusion exists about which cruise lines will be operating with vaccination mandates at all.
Some lines launched internationally earlier this summer. But now with a steady return to cruising from U.S. homeports, some cruise lines have different policies for their U.S. vs international sailings.
Open Jaw thought it would be worth it to run down the latest on each cruise line’s vaccine policies for sailing in American waters - at least as they stand today as legal wranglings between Florida and the CDC over cruise regulations continue.
Carnival has been cruising since 03JUL, and revealed that by OCT the company plans to have 15 ships in operation - or over half the fleet.
In a video posted this week, president of Carnival Cruises Christine Duffy announced that crew members would be fully vaccinated and that they would require pax to be 95 per cent vaccinated as well. Those who are vaccinated will have to have completed their second dose at least 14 days prior to embarking and present proof of such before sailing.
All unvaccinated guests, including children under the age of 12 will be subject to testing pre- and post-departure, as well as a $150 charge to cover the costs of the tests, screenings and procedures.
Royal Caribbean International:
Royal Caribbean recently returned to Alaskan waters after a return to cruising at the beginning of the month. The cruise line had initially announced a 100 per cent vaccination policy for pax, only to walk it back slightly by the time they returned to the water.
As Open Jaw reported: While maintaining its policy that any guest over 16 (anyone over 12 after 01AUG) on an Alaska sailing must be fully vaccinated, the cruise line now says on its newly released Caribbean itineraries from American homeports, guests are now only “strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated.”
Those who can’t prove full vaccination status will still be required to undergo testing at their own expense as well as be separated / distanced on the ship and may not be permitted to go ashore independently at some ports of call.
As for how that’s played out on the actual cruisings, 97 per cent of the onboard community on the Serenade of the Seas to Alaska was fully vaccinated.
Celebrity got started a little earlier on 26JUN, being the first cruise line to resume service in the US.
All Celebrity ships sail with a fully vaccinated crew and currently require any pax aged 16 and up to be fully vaccinated as well. It committed to 95 per cent guest vaccination, and said it would shut down registration when that threshold is met; that has not yet happened.
As of 01AUG, anyone 12 years old and up must be fully vaccinated. Requirements for non-U.S. guests and other health and safety measures can be found here.
Celebrity also made a return to Alaska this month with the first of 11 round trips from Seattle.
MSC will begin its return to cruising in the U.S. on 02AUG, and will not require vaccinations. That doesn’t mean the company doesn’t have a plan for unvaccinated guests.
The cruise line released a statement saying that unvaccinated guests over the age of 12 travelling to the Caribbean from U.S. destinations will be required to purchase the cruise line’s Travel Insurance & COVID-19 Protection Services, and will be subject to more strict health protocols for cruising.
It also added protocols for non-vaxxed guests including mask wearing, the required purchase of MSC sponsored shore excursions in order to go ashore, required testing upon embarkation and while on board, and more.
Norweigan Cruise Line Holdings: NCL, Regent and Oceania:
NCLH lines also restart in the U.S. after returning to Europe earlier this year. The company’s cruise lines will require everyone, including children, to be fully vaccinated at least through to 31OCT.
However, they have Florida to contend with. As Open Jaw reported, one of their cruise lines, NCL, is scheduled to set sail from a Florida homeport on 15AUG. Which would be fine, except that Florida plans to fine any businesses that require proof of vaccinations. So Norweigan has filed a lawsuit against the state to be permitted to require proof of vaccinations from their guests.
Disney Cruise Line:
The House of Mouse will not be requiring vaccinations on its ships as it sails out of Florida, but the unvaccinated can still look forward to a standard PCR test and a $65 antigen test at the port.
Carnival Corporation: HAL, Princess, Carnival and others:
Holland America Line and Princess Cruises restarted sailing last weekend, both from U.S. waters on Alaskan itineraries from Seattle.
Both are following CDC guidelines, requiring all guests to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to embarking - with proof. Their crews will be following the CDC’s guidelines, which is to say they’ll be vaccinated too. They both follow the same vaccination policies, which do not recognize mixed vaccinations.
“The US policy remains unchanged that ‘fully vaccinated’ means completing all required dose of a COVID-19 series. By series, the US CDC is referring to the same type of vaccine (mRNA, vector, etc.),” said Negin Kamali, the Director, Public Relations at Princess Cruises at the time.
Silversea will be the first luxury cruise line to resume Alaskan sailing as the Silver Muse takes off from Seattle this week. The cruise line does require both pax and crew to be fully vaccinated to take part in its luxury sailing.
More info on their health and safety protocols is available on their website.
Crystal will be taking off from Boston and New York starting 22AUG on seven-day itineraries to Bermuda as their resumption of cruising from U.S. waters.
As Open Jaw previously reported, all guests and crew will be vaccinated as per the line’s Crystal Clean+ protocols. Additionally, Crystal’s guests and crew will follow all local health guidelines and protocols when visiting Bermuda.