Most of the country has passed the COVID-19 pandemic. You may see people choosing to wear masks in certain places in public, but the country has been fully open for business for several months.
The cruise industry lags behind the rest of the travel industry. This is because of Royal Caribbean International (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group ReportCarnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – Get the Carnival Foundation reportNorwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. report.The rest of the cruise lines sailing from US ports are regulated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
That changed just a few weeks ago when the CDC decided to stop its coronavirus tracking program on cruise ships. The government agency provided guidance to the cruise industry, but has even halted a voluntary monitoring program.
This led to Virgin Voyage, Royal Caribbean and Carnival, among others, either dropping covid testing before the cruises entirely (Virgin) or ordering them only on cruises of six nights and more (Royal Caribbean and Carnival). Virgin has also relaxed its vaccine requirements. Previously, all customers on adult-only ships had to be vaccinated. Now, up to 10% of passengers can sail without getting vaccinated.
Read: Carnival follows Royal Caribbean in making major coronavirus change
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Now, a few days after the Virgin Voyages policy change, Royal Caribbean has changed its vaccination rules.
Royal Caribbean changes its vaccine requirements
During most of the pandemic era, since sailing returned from US ports in July 2021, all passengers 12 years of age or older have had to show they had been fully vaccinated at least two weeks before sailing. Now, the cruise line has made a pretty big change and President Michael Bailey has shared the news on social media, which was first reported by the Royal Caribbean Blog (which isn’t affiliated with the cruise line).
“Unvaccinated guests will be required to take one test within 3 days of departure. We will also continue to operate highly vaccinated cruises with a larger community population that continues to exempt children 12 years of age or younger and we will welcome unvaccinated guests over 12 years old. or more. Guests who have a certificate of recovery within 90 days to travel bearing in mind that our ships will normally sail with 80 percent plus vaccinated guests on board.”
That’s a lower threshold than the 90% vaccinated Virgin would sail, but Royal Caribbean has always vaccinated around 90% on its ships because it allows children under 12 not to be vaccinated. Bailey did not share how the cruise line would allocate slots to unvaccinated passengers.
The cruise line dropped all pre-cruise tests for sailing less than 6 nights. In all cases, protocols may differ on a particular sailing if the destination has different rules than the cruise line. Destinations could also choose not to allow unvaccinated passengers off the ship or require all visitors to wear masks in some situations.