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New show for Odyssey of the Seas revealed

By: Matt Hochberg

We now know the name of the show Royal Caribbean's newest show on Odyssey of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Nick Weir, posted on Twitter the name of the new show for the Two70 venue.

While Odyssey of the Seas launched months ago from the shipyard, the entirety of the entertainment onboard has not been known.

Guests on Odyssey of the Seas can enjoy "The Book" in Two70, which has a subtitle of "Seven Chapters, One Adventure."

Mr. Weir revealed the poster artwork on Twitter.

He added, "Using the powers of observation and deductive reasoning, (plus previous clues), the name of the production should be fairly easy to determine."

According to Weir, the show will be fine tuned this summer, and will feature a character known as The Librarian.

"Here is the mysterious Librarian, in his special library, with his equally special collection of books."

The Book will be in addition to the Oceanides show previously announced for Two70 on Odyssey of the Seas.

Two70 is the venue Royal Caribbean designed on the aft of its Quantum and Quantum Ultra class ships that offers immersive scenery on a 270 degree wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. 

The projection surface in Two70 measures 135 feet wide and 22 feet tall, and has a 12k digital screen along with  8-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide robotic screens.

Odyssey of the Seas will set sail from Fort Lauderdale on new 6- and 8-night Caribbean cruises, beginning July 31.

Carnival will bring back all of its cruise ships by the end of the year

By: Matt Hochberg

Carnival Cruise Line announced this week the next phase of its restart plans, which includes bringing back its entire fleet by the end of the year.

Parent company Carnival Corporation outlined plans for resuming cruises across eight of its nine brands, representing a total of 54 ships.

The Carnival Cruise Line brand has restarted sailings on some ships, will have the remaining nine ships in its fleet back to operations by the end of 2021.

The three ships for September are the Carnival Glory from New Orleans, starting Sept. 5, the Carnival Pride from Baltimore, starting Sept. 12, and the Carnival Dream from Galveston, starting Sept. 19.

In October, the four additional ships to restart will be the Carnival Conquest from Miami, effective Oct. 8, the Carnival Freedom from Miami, effective Oct. 9, the Carnival Elation from Port Canaveral, effective Oct. 11, and the Carnival Sensation from Mobile, effective Oct. 21.

Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy talked about bringing back the entire fleet, "Our plan envisions successfully bringing back our entire fleet by the end of the year, returning to full service – most especially for the millions of families who sail with us – and building back our business for the benefit of our guests, employees and the tens of thousands of jobs and local businesses that depend on our company."

Carnival Cruise Line first resumed cruises from the U.S. during the first weekend in July.

Carnival ships sailing in the summer and fall will have mostly fully vaccinated passengers onboard, although exemptions can be made for unvaccinated passengers depending on space.

Essentially, Carnival will offer exemptions to unvaccinated guests on a limited, capacity-managed basis within 14 days of sailing as the cruise line finalizes the vaccinated guest count. The more bookings Carnival initially secures for cruises with fully vaccinated guests, the more exemptions they can ultimately offer for unvaccinated guests already booked and those wishing to sail.

Carnival will operate these sailings with at least 95 percent vaccinated guests, which means the ships will not have to do test cruises.

Unvaccinated passengers who are admitted to sail will need to undergo additional pre-cruise and mid-cruise testing and pay a $150 fee to cover screening costs. Unvaccinated travelers on specific Carnival itineraries from Florida and Texas will also need to show proof of travel insurance.

These requirements of unvaccinated passengers is similar to Royal Caribbean's policies, although Carnival is handling how they book unvaccinated passengers differently.

Anyone booked on Carnival that does not wish to sail due to the vaccination requirements and protocols is able to request a full refund with no penalties.

Royal Caribbean's restart plans in the U.S. are only outlined for 9 of its ships so far.  A few ships are sailing in Europe this summer, and Quantum of the Seas is operating out of Singapore.

Royal Caribbean has not yet spelled out exactly what its restart plans will look like in the fall and winter of this year.

Quantum of the Seas in Singapore drops back to more stringent Covid-19 protocols

By: Matt Hochberg

Singapore has raised its Covid-19 alert status, and the result is Royal Caribbean's cruise protocols for sailings from that country have to go back to being far more strict.

As a result of the government announcement, Quantum of the Seas sailings will revert to a lower capacity, along with other restrictions, such as no sit down dining options.

Our friends at Singapore Cruise Society shared the update Royal Caribbean is conveying to booked guests.

Singapore has raised its Covid-19 status to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), which will apply to sailings beginning on July 22 and remain in effect until at least August 18.

Guests sailing on Quantum will have to take an antigen test prior to embarkation at the cruise terminal, in addition to the PCR test they are required to take in the days leading up to sailing.

Specifically, here are some of the major changes guests sailing on Quantum of the Seas from Singapore can expect: 

  • Reduced shipwide capacity of 25%
  • Group sizes of no more than two guests.
  • Guests from same household may travel in the same stateroom, but will be required to remain to a maximum of two per group while in public areas
  • Restaurants & bars will be closed, but the Main Dining Room menu will be available through room service. Guests will have to dine in their cabins.
  • Capacity for all life entertainment shows to be restricted to 50 guests.
  • Permitted onboard activities, such as those in SeaPlex, Activitity Zone & Pool Zone will continue to operate at reduced capacity.
  • Guests who pre-purchased dining and beverage packages will be refunded automatically.

Passengers booked on the July 22nd sailing of Quantum of the Seas have the option for a full refund if these new protocols are not to their liking. All other sailings going forward have the choice of a 100% future cruise credit.

This is not the first time Quantum of the Seas has had to adhere to heightened protocols from Singapore. Earlier this year, similar protocols were put into place.

In May 2021, Singapore announced it would move to Phase 2 when cases in the country spiked. In May and now, the changing ship protocols are not a result of any cases on the ship.

Throughout the pandemic, Singapore has taken an aggressive stance at trying to detect and isolate new cases.

The Government will review the measures in two weeks and adjust them based on the situation at that time, the Ministry of Health (MOH) added. 

Singapore opted not to differentiate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people for this alert change, but will consider doing so when vaccination rates are higher or when the situation has stabilized

Why the court ruling in favor of the CDC doesn't really change anything

By: Matt Hochberg

You may have read about the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit approved the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) request to delay an injunction against the agency's cruise ship rules.

That decision created a ripple of concern that cruise industry restart plans would be negatively affected, but the reality is the stay of the injunction being granted means things stay the same, rather than change.

While the lawsuit moves onto the appeals process, cruise fans should know that nothing has really changed between when Florida won its lawsuit, when the stay was initially denied, and now with the injunction delayed.

Here is a rundown of what is happening. and why things are staying the same.

What happened

Florida sued the CDC in April as a way to get all of the restrictions placed on the cruise industry since March 2020 to be lifted.

In June, a federal judge ruled that Florida was right and that the CDC had misused its governmental power.

US District Judge Steven Merryday issued a preliminary injunction, which would have overturned the Conditional Sail Order restrictions starting July 18, but the CDC requested to delay the decision.

Judge Merryday denied that request, but then an appellate court panel granted the CDC's appeal to delay the injunction in a 2-1 decision.

Now, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has pledged to continue the fight against the CDC.

"I think that most courts at this point have had their limit with the CDC issuing these dictates without a firm statutory basis," the Florida governor said at a press conference Monday. "So I'm confident that we'd win on the merits at the full 11th Circuit."

"Honestly, I'm confident we'd win at the US Supreme Court," he added.

Why nothing really changes

The news that the CDC won its request to delay the injunction got a lot of people concerned the cruise restart process would be impacted by this ruling, but the reality is the cruise industry has been working with the CDC over the last few months to get back into service.

Even while the courts were deliberating on the authority of the CDC, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean were working under the conditions of the CSO to get approval to sail.

So far two Royal Caribbean cruise ships are back in service from the United States (Freedom of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas), and Odyssey of the Seas is undergoing her test sailing right now.

Another six Royal Caribbean cruise ships have test cruises scheduled between now and the end of August.

Other cruise lines are also working with the CDC right now to get their ships approved via the test cruise program.

In short, the cruise lines have been working under the framework outlined by the CDC that Florida is fighting to get repealed, so its continued existence does not change the status quo related to cruise ship restart plans.

Odyssey of the Seas to begin her first test cruise today

By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship is ready to begin her first test sailing today from south Florida.

While not announced by Royal Caribbean, Odyssey of the Seas appears to be ready to set sail today from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a test sailing.

These simulated voyages are required by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) in order to get approval to sail from the United States.

Odyssey of the Seas has had a long journey to this point, having been delayed during constructed and had a few inaugural sailings canceled due to the global health crisis in Europe and Israel.

Any Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing from the United States is required to undergo a test cruise so that the cruise line can demonstrate to the CDC the new health protocols onboard are effective at keeping passengers and crew members safe.

So far two other Royal Caribbean ships have successfully conducted test cruises: Freedom of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas.

It is not clear how long this test voyage will be, but if all goes well, Odyssey could be ready for her scheduled first sailing with paying passengers on July 31, 2021.

Odyssey will offer cruises from Fort Lauderdale this summer, fall, and winter.

Odyssey is the first Quantum Ultra Class ship to cruise from the U.S., which features SeaPlex - the largest indoor and outdoor activity complex at sea - and a vibrant, Caribbean-inspired pool deck.

Royal Caribbean chose to do test cruises instead of requiring 95% of its passengers be fully vaccinated as a way to ensure families could continue to sail.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley posted recently on social media there are a substantial amount of children too young for a vaccine on most sailings, "As a family brand, Royal Caribbean typically sails with 10 percent of our guests under 12 years old, and today, they are ineligible for the vaccine."

As a family brand that traditionally has over 1 million children sailing onboard, leaving kids out (and subsequently their parents and extended family) was not an option Royal Caribbean ever considered.

Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Mark Tamis, indicated choosing to do test cruises was a clear decision, "When the first set of potential regulations were published, it was such an obvious choice of the path that we had to go down."

"Once there were two clear paths, 95% or under 95%, it wasn’t even really a consideration."

Mr. Tamis called the decision "obvious" given how many kids sail with Royal Caribbean, along with the cruise line's dedication to remaining a family brand. "A good 20 to 25 percent of our guests are kids."

Test cruise requirements

The CDC has a laundry list of tasks required to be completed during a test cruise before a ship could be approved.

Cruise lines have the choice of doing all of these steps on one or over multiple test sailings, but thus far, Royal Caribbean has opted to conduct its test sailings over the course of a single voyage.

  • Embarkation and disembarkation procedures, as approved by U.S. port and local health authorities as part the cruise ship operator’s Phase 2A agreements, including procedures for terminal check-in.
  • Onboard activities, including seating and meal service at dining and entertainment venues.
  • Medical evacuation procedures.
  • Transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARS-CoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms.
  • Onboard and shoreside isolation and quarantine, as per the terms of the cruise ship operator’s Phase 2A agreements, of at least 5% of all passengers and non-essential crew.
  • Recreational activities that the cruise ship operator intends to offer as part of any restricted passenger voyages, e.g., casinos, spa services, fitness classes, gymnasiums.
  • Private-island shore excursions if any are planned during restricted passenger voyages. The following measures must be observed on the private island:
    • Only one ship can port at the island at any one time.
    • A routine screening testing protocol must be implemented for island staff who are expected to interact with volunteer passengers or crew, unless they are fully vaccinated or have documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
    • Mask use and social distancing must be observed in indoor areas while on the island.
  • Port of call shore excursions if any are planned during restricted passenger voyages. The following measures must be observed on port of call shore excursions:
    • Shore excursions must only include passengers and crew from the same ship.
    • Cruise ship operator must ensure all shore excursion tour companies facilitate social distancing, mask wearing, and other COVID-19 public health measures throughout the tour while in any indoor areas.
    • Cruise ship operators must have a protocol for managing persons with COVID-19 and close contacts at all foreign ports of call. At a minimum, the protocol must include the following:
      • Disembarkation and housing of persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 needing shore-based hospital care and their travel companion(s) for the duration of their isolation or quarantine period.
      • Commercial repatriation of U.S.-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts only after meeting criteria to end isolation and quarantine per CDC guidance. For commercial repatriation of foreign-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts, cruise ship operators must consult with all relevant public health authorities.

First Royal Caribbean cruise ship to sail to Alaska in two years departs today

By: Matt Hochberg

Another milestone in the cruise industry's recovery has been reached today, with the official restart of cruises to Alaska.

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to depart Seattle on July 19.

After more than a year with cruising on pause, Serenade will sail from Pier 91 in Seattle  – a change from its previously scheduled homeport in Vancouver. 

The significance of this first sailing is as large for the cruise industry as it is for the people of Alaska.

Just like cruises to the Caribbean, cruises to Alaska have been shutdown since 2020. 

Without cruise tourists to Alaska since late 2019, the economic impact has been massive.

Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) has incurred a $3.3 billion loss in tourist dollars over that timeframe.

For Royal Caribbean, this is another ship back in service and another ship that has received approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) to sail again.

Each of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships must perform a test cruise, where various health protocols and social distancing rules are tested out to demonstrate the ship can be operated safely.

Serenade of the Seas conducted her 4-night test cruise back on July 7 with 300 fully vaccinated passengers onboard.

The week-long itinerary features a lineup of ports of call, including Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, as well as Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier.

For Alaska sailings departing from Seattle, Washington before August 1, all Royal Caribbean guests age 16 and older must present proof of Covid-19 vaccination, with the final dose of their vaccine administered at least 14 days before sailing.

After August 1, that requirement drops to 12 years old.

Guests under the age of this requirement don’t need to be vaccinated and will receive a Covid-19 test at the terminal before boarding.

Royal Caribbean removes mixed vaccine policy from its website

By: Matt Hochberg

It looks like Royal Caribbean has perhaps changed its mind about the mixed vaccine policy after all.

Over the weekend, Royal Caribbean had joined other cruise lines in adding language to its vaccination policy saying it would not accept mixed vaccines as being fully vaccinated.

As of this morning, that policy has been removed from its website, and there is no mention at all of mixed vaccines.

The rule change was originally about not considering someone who had taken doses of different brands of Covid-19 vaccines fully vaccinated. This would mean someone who took 1 dose Pfizer + 1 dose Moderna, or 1 dose AstraZeneca + 1 dose Pfizer, etc.

Royal Caribbean's revised policy on July 19

Royal Caribbean's policy on July 17

If a guest did have a mixed vaccine regiment, they would be considered instead unvaccinated.

The practice of mixing vaccines is prevalent in countries like Canada or Germany, where those governments have been openly advocating this approach for months.

The new policy would have resulted in many Canadian cruise fans potentially unable to sail.

Royal Caribbean has not commented publicly about the policy change, but it was not the only line to update its requirements.

Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises all modified their Health and Safety protocols to exclude those who had received mixed COVID-19 vaccinations.  Royal Caribbean followed with their change a day later.

As of right now, Royal Caribbean's policy posted online makes no mention of mixed vaccines and it is not clear if public pressure or something else compelled them to reverse the change.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: July 18, 2021

By: Matt Hochberg

Happy Sunday! We hope you are having a great weekend! Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and catch up on all the Royal Caribbean news from the week!

Royal Caribbean shared which changes to its customer loyalty program will be temporary or permanent.

As cruise ships return to service, the Crown and Anchor Society has had some changes made to adhere to certain social distancing guidelines.

Most of the changes are enhancements or additions, although there are a few benefits that have been temporarily rescinded and fewer that have been permanently removed.

To clarify the situation, Royal Caribbean has outlined which changes are going to be lasting, and which are just here for the time being.

Royal Caribbean News

Video: What's one thing you will never do on a cruise?

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — What's one thing you will never do on a cruise? — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 414th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Matt shares the best food he's eaten so far on a cruise ship this year.

It may be just three sailings so far, but Matt got to try a few new restaurants and return to some favorites. In this episode, he has a look at which dishes really stood out.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Royal Caribbean will begin picking volunteers to go on test cruises

Check your email, because invitations to test cruises are coming soon.

Royal Caribbean posted on social media it will begin picking randomly from its list of well over a quarter of a million volunteers to come aboard a test cruise.

"The time is here," Royal Caribbean announced with excitement. "This week we’ll be randomly selecting and extending invites to registered Volunteers to participate in upcoming simulation cruises."

CDC gets a last-minute hold against lifting cruise ship regulations

By: Matt Hochberg

The rules under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Conditional Sail Order were set to become just a recommendation last night, but a new judge has ruled to hold off on that change just yet.

POLITICO reporter Josh Gerstein reports the Circuit Court of the 11th District voted 2-1 to put U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday’s June 18 ruling on hold.

The Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has not yet shared its opinions on the case.

Judge Steven D. Merryday ruled on June 18 in favor of the State of Florida in its lawsuit against the CDC to lift the Conditional Sail Order.

Florida Governor Ron Desantis sued the CDC in April as a way to combat the CDC holding cruise ships back from restarting cruises.

The CDC instituted a ban on all cruise ships from the United States in March 2020 due to the global health crisis. Then on October 30, 2020 the CDC imposed a four-phase conditional framework it said would allow the industry to gradually resume operations if certain thresholds were met.

The CDC appealed the verdict and asked Judge Merryday for a stay to ensure the CSO did not get lifted while the litigation is sorted out in the appeals process.

Judge Merryday denied the stay, saying the CDC can show no factor that outweighs the need to conclude an unwarranted and unprecedented exercise of governmental power.

He also called out the CDC's claim that their actions are about protecting the public health, "this action is not about what health precautions against COVID-19 are necessary or helpful aboard a cruise ship; this action is about the use and misuse of governmental power."

The CSO was set to expire at 12:01 a.m. EDT on JULY 18, 2021, and instead become a recommendation instead of a requirement.

The intention of the ruling was to bring cruise ships in line with other forms of leisure travel and entertainment, such as airlines, railroads, hotels, casinos, sports venues, buses, subways, and others.

The CDC believes the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) plays an important role in keeping passengers and crew safe on a ship, "It does not shut down the cruise industry but instead provides a sensible, flexible framework for re-opening, based on the best available scientific evidence."

"The undisputed evidence shows that unregulated cruise ship operations would exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, and that the harm to the public that would result from such operations cannot be undone."

"Cruise ships are uniquely situated to spread COVID-19, due in part to their close quarters for passengers and crew for prolonged periods, and stops at foreign ports that risk introducing new variants of COVID-19 into the United States."

In the CDC's opinion, "The balance of the harms and the public interest thus overwhelmingly favor Defendants and maintaining the status quo pending appeal."

Royal Caribbean won't accept mixed vaccines as being fully vaccinated

By: Matt Hochberg

Joining other cruise lines, Royal Caribbean has revised its Covid-19 mixed vaccination protocols.

UPDATE: Since posting this article, Royal Caribbean has revised its website and no longer lists this policy.

Less than a day after other cruise lines announced similar policies, Royal Caribbean updated its website with new guidance that says passengers who have mixed doses of the vaccines.

Specifically, Royal Caribbean says guests who have used mixed vaccination protocols will not be considered fully vaccinated (i.e. 1 dose Pfizer + 1 dose Moderna, or 1 dose AstraZeneca + 1 dose Pfizer, etc.).

To be considered fully vaccinated, a guest must have received all doses of one accepted vaccine. Otherwise, a guest will be considered unvaccinated.

Similar policies were announced by Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line and other lines.

It is not clear yet what compelled Royal Caribbean to make this change.

Mixing vaccine doses is more of an issue in certain countries, such as Canada, than it is in the United States.

Canada currently uses vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, as well as Johnson & Johnson, which uses a single shot.

In June, Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued guidance permitting AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots to be used interchangeably in certain situations.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week his government is working to ensure Canadians will be allowed to travel if they have shots from two different vaccines, even if other countries haven't approved mixing doses.

"We're going to work with the international community to make sure that people who are fully vaccinated in ways that Canadians recognize as safe and effective are also recognized around the world," he said.

Many cruise fans were concerned about this policy and their ability to go on a cruise, and shared their frustrations on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog Facebook page.

Marc Van Niekerk posted, "I have the mixed vaccine and there is no way to undo that not that I even would. I know there are a very large number of Canadians in this situation as well as those from other countries."

Heather Whitehead exemplified many others by pointing out the decision to get a mixed vaccine regiment was prescribed by medical professionals, "I got told by my doctor to get the AstraZeneca because it was the first one available. Then got told to get Pfizer/moderna for the second because of the blood clotting issue (and because it would be more effective). And now I’m hearing that I might have trouble with travelling/cruises. So frustrating!"

Daniela Bahr said in Germany, the national rule is not to get two of the same doses, "No two doses of AstraZeneca for anyone under 60, it has to be Pfizer/Biontech."