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Royal Caribbean issues revised mixed vaccine policy

In:
Category: 
24Jul2021

Royal Caribbean has posted a new mixed vaccine policy to its website to address cruise ship passengers who have gotten more than one brand of Covid-19 vaccine.

The cruise line had posted a mixed vaccine policy last week that banned them, but quickly removed the policy completely in order to review the issue further following a lot of guest concern.

Royal Caribbean's new mixed vaccine policy, which depends on the mix of manufacturers and where you are sailing from.  

The policy begins with the ideal scenario for a fully vaccinated guest: Royal Caribbean accepts vaccines that are fully approved or authorized for emergency use by the U.S. FDA or the World Health Organization. All doses of your vaccine should be from the same manufacturer and of the same type (e.g. mRNA), in the required number of doses to be considered fully administered (e.g. 2 shots of Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, etc., or 1 shot of Johnson & Johnson). 

The mixed vaccine policy breaks down depending on where you are sailing from:

Cruises Departing from U.S. Ports 

Despite the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prefence for vaccinations not be mixed, Royal Caribbean will still allow mixed vaccines in some situations.

Royal Caribbean will accommodate guests who are vaccinated with mixed mRNA vaccines, such as 1 shot of Pfizer and 1 shot of Moderna. The doses must be separated by at least 28 days and not more than 42 days.

Royal Caribbean does not accept 1 shot of an mRNA vaccine (e.g., Pfizer or Moderna) mixed with 1 shot of a viral vector vaccine (e.g., AstraZeneca). 

Mixed vaccines may not be accepted at all ports of call. Guests who are vaccinated with a mixed series may need to undergo additional testing at embarkation if they wish to go ashore in these ports.

Cruises Departing from Ports Outside of the U.S.

For cruises departing from ports outside of the U.S., Royal Caribbean will accept guests who are vaccinated with a mixed regimen consisting of 2 shots of the following manufacturer combinations: Pfizer and Moderna, or AstraZeneca with either Pfizer or Moderna.

The doses must be separated by at least 28 days and not more than 42 days for mixes of Pfizer and Moderna, and separated by at least 4 weeks and not more than 12 weeks for combinations of AstraZeneca with Pfizer or Moderna.

Mixed vaccines may not be accepted at all ports of call. Guests who are vaccinated with a mixed series may not be allowed to go ashore at these ports, or may need to undergo additional testing if they wish to go ashore.

The full policy has been posted on Royal Caribbean's website.

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

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

Royal Caribbean removes mixed vaccine policy from its website

In:
Category: 
19Jul2021

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 won't accept mixed vaccines as being fully vaccinated

In:
Category: 
17Jul2021

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."

Royal Caribbean's new health protocols catch two positive Covid-19 cases on Adventure of the Seas

In:
24Jun2021

Royal Caribbean added a series of new protocols to its ships to detect Covid-19 cases early, and the system in place identified two unvaccinated teenage passengers who tested positive for Covid-19 on Adventure of the Seas.

According to Royal Caribbean, two teenagers on Adventure of the Seas were in isolation and then disembarked in Freeport earlier today.

Their parents, who are vaccinated, tested negative.

As part of Royal Caribbean's multi-faceted plan in preparation for a scenario like this, the medical care and transportation home will be handled by the cruise line.

The cases were caught during end of cruise testing, which is required at the end of a sailing.

Here is Royal Caribbean's official statement:

Two guests on Adventure of the Seas tested positive for COVID-19 after routine testing that is required before returning home. Here are the facts:

  • Both guests, under the age of 16 and unvaccinated, were immediately quarantined. One guest is asymptomatic, and the other guest is experiencing mild symptoms.
  • Those in their immediate travel party are vaccinated and have tested negative.
  • Close contacts were quickly identified and tested. All are vaccinated and tested negative.

The guests and their travel party disembarked today in Freeport, The Bahamas and are on their way home to Florida. Ninety-two percent of our guests on Adventure are fully vaccinated and the remaining 8% are under 16 years old. One hundred percent of our crew are fully vaccinated.

Adventure of the Seas is the first Royal Caribbean International ship to restart operations in North America, and she is on her second sailing back in operation.

On Adventure of the Seas sailings from The Bahamas, guests who are 16 years of age and older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and those 12 and older as of Aug. 1.  In addition, anyone unvaccinated had to get a negative PCR test result in order to board the ship.

All crew members are fully vaccinated as well.

While the ship is sailing from outside the United States, Royal Caribbean's safety rules have been in development over the past year during the cruise industry's shutdown.  This includes testing, mandatory health screenings, online check-ins and contact tracing through CCTV cameras.

The ships have been upgraded to prepare for a situation like this, with immediate medical evaluations, rapid Covid-19 testing and dedicated zones for Covid-19 care, more critical care beds on each ship, and robust treatment plans.

Royal Caribbean has been keenly aware of the statistical likelihood of positive cases onboard, but they worked on how to catch it early and avoid it becoming a major issue.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said the Health Sail Panel of health experts has worked on this specific contingency, "A really important part and a really big focus of the panel's effort was on how to respond if we do have a case that gets on board."

"We respond properly. We have a extensive contingency plan so that we don't have to go through one of these processes of quarantining huge numbers of people. We take care of the the the small number that we catch early and everybody else can go about their business."

Royal Caribbean Group Senior Vice President of Shared Services Operations recently spoke about the importance of these protocols to keep crew members and guests safe.

"All of the different things that we’ve done technology-wise as well as with testing and safety, those are going to stay. Those are Royal Caribbean protocols, whether or not they’re required of us or not," Ms. Hodges Bethge said.

"We feel very good that we have some of the strongest kind of processes of anywhere you go in the world today."

Response plan

Royal Caribbean developed a plan to respond to a scenario such as this, and coordinated these plans with the Bahamanian government.

According to Royal Caribbean's health protocols, in the event a guest tests positive for Covid-19, a "robust, tiered response plan" goes into effect.

The tiers increase protocols and vigilance onboard while providing transparent updates to guests the whole way.

In partnership with local authorities, Royal Caribbean has developed transport protocols to ensure we can get guests home safely. 

In fact, Royal Caribbean identified early that being "stuck" in quarantine on a cruise ship was not something any guest wanted, and a result, Royal Caribbean has developed transport agreements with local authorities in a situation like this to get everyone home safely.

CDC lowers warning level for cruise ships

In:
Category: 
16Jun2021

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) lowered its warning for going on a cruise ship for the first time since the global health crisis began.

The warning has gone from Level 4 to a Level 3 warning of "Very High" to "High".

The CDC's 4-level system categorizes destinations, including international destinations and United States Territories, into the following four levels:

Level 4: Very high level of COVID-19
Level 3: High level of COVID-19
Level 2: Moderate level of COVID-19
Level 1: Low level of COVID-19

The CDC noted the warning change is aimed at non-vaccinated passengers, "Lowered from Level 4 to Level 3, and specified the notice is for travelers who are not fully vaccinated."

The CDC recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide.


New Level 3 Warning


Previous Level 4 Warning

In its revised verbiage, they specify unvaccinated passengers face a greater threat going on a cruise than someone who is vaccinated,"It is especially important that people who are not fully vaccinated who are more likely to get severely ill avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises.

"Cruise passengers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are at increased risk, since the virus spreads person-to-person, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships because of their congregate (group) settings where COVID-19 spreads easily."

The CDC raised the warning level for cruise ship travel to its highest point of Level 4 in November 2020, and it remained at that level until today.

Just like the cruise lines, the CDC recommends that anyone going on a cruise ship get vaccinated before their trip, which means being fully vaccinated before travel begin.

The CDC also advocates anyone going on a cruise during the pandemic do the following:

  • Get tested with a COVID-19 viral test 1–3 days before your departure, even if you are fully vaccinated.
  • Get travel insurance

Texas will ban cruise lines from asking for proof of a Covid-19 vaccine

In:
Category: 
08Jun2021

Texas looks like it will sign a similar law to Florida's that prohibits the ability for private companies to ask their customers for proof of vaccination against Covid-19.

In response to cruise ships wanting to provide proof of a vaccine, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) says he signed a new law that bans the ability for any business in Texas from asking for vaccine information.

The new law follows up on an executive order he signed in April 2021 that banned state agencies or organizations that received public funds from doing the same thing.

Governor Abbott specifically addressed the issue of cruise ships, which may look to ensure a certain percentage of their passengers are vaccinated, and does not want them to be able to ask passengers for that information.

Governor Abbott tweeted his response after someone asked about cruise ships sailing out of Galveston instead of Florida ports to get around the vaccine ban there, "I'm signing a law today that prohibits any business operating in Texas from requiring vaccine passports or any vaccine information."

"Texas is open 100% without any restrictions or limitations or requirements."

This new law now includes private companies.

Florida passed a law that does the same thing, and it has been a major point of contention for the cruise industry, which seeks to restart operations from the United States while also avoiding becoming a media spectacle due to any Covid cases onboard a ship.

Moreover, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires in some cases cruise lines to ensure a certain percentage of its guests are fully vaccinated.

Governor Ron DeSantis (R) has been vocal in his unwavering support of prohibitions against people being asked to provide proof of a vaccine.

"We think they should be able to sail. But we also don't think that they should be able to require your personal health information in that regard."

Cruise lines are caught in a precarious position of wanting to restart operations quickly, while also ensuring the stigma of being a "super spreader" of Covid-19 does not perpetuate.

The cruise industry remains mostly shutdown by the federal government, and in large part, that is due to the public perception that Covid-19 is somehow more likely or easier to spread onboard. In the court of public opinion, one case on a ship seems to be one too many, and it draws an disproportional amount of media coverage.

Royal Caribbean has seemingly changed its stance on requiring a vaccine since announcing its restart plans from the United States.

While Royal Caribbean has not announced its full set of health protocols for cruises sailing from the United States this year yet, the language chosen in talking about vaccines has shifted away from a mandate.

When Royal Caribbean announced their return to service last week, they did not say the vaccine would be required, but instead "strongly recommended" getting vaccinated.

The announcement says, "guests are strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible."

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke on Monday about the vaccine requirements, but did not specify that it would be required.  Instead, he mentioned that the "vast majority" of guests the company has surveyed have indicated they either have or will get vaccinated.

He also talked about Florida's vaccine ban, and said he does not expect a large number of unvaccinated guests onboard, "This unique law only applies within Florida. While we obviously have to comply with the law of the land, we do not believe that we will have significant numbers of unvaccinated for several reasons."

Royal Caribbean drops vaccine mandate for U.S. cruises

In:
05Jun2021

It looks like Royal Caribbean has completely changed its rules for requiring vaccinations from passengers on most of its U.S. sailings.

Included within the cruise line's ambitious July restart plans announced on Friday, Royal Caribbean changed the wording of its Covid-19 vaccine policy by saying they are now simply "strongly recommended".

Royal Caribbean had updated its policy a few weeks ago to say vaccines would be required for anyone above the age of 16 on U.S. and Bahamas sailings, but within the announcement of which ships will restart revenue cruises is new verbiage that changes the policy.

The announcement 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."

A vaccine will remain required for anyone sailing from Seattle to Alaska who are 16 years of age or older, and those 12 or older as of Aug. 1.

On May 22, Royal Caribbean posted on its website that it would require all guests sailing from the U.S. or Bahamas who are at least 16 years old or older to be fully vaccinated to sail.

Two days later, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain explained in a video update that unlike other Royal Caribbean Group lines, Royal Caribbean International would expect everyone who can be vaccinated, to do so.

"Royal Caribbean International is likely to take a somewhat different route. Like our other brands, everyone who's eligible for vaccine will be expected to have one."

"However, children under 12 can't yet get the shot. And Royal Caribbean International carries a lot of families. Families are important to us."

"On these cruises, we may not reach the ninety five percent threshold, but even here the vast majority will be vaccinated."

Shortly thereafter, Royal Caribbean updated its website and changed the wording from "U.S." to "Seattle".

Why the change?

Royal Caribbean has not provided any explanation yet, but there is rampant speculation it is the result of the ongoing war of words between the cruise lines and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) signed a new law that prohibits businesses from being able to ask for proof of a vaccine from their customers.

Senate Bill (SB) 2006 specifies the new law prohibits "a business entity from requiring patrons or customers to provide documentation certifying vaccination against or recovery from COVID-19."

The new law goes into effect as of July 1st. Companies that violate this law would be subject to a fine of $5,000 each time they require a customer to present a vaccine passport for service.

Governor DeSantis doesn't think cruise ships need to ask passengers for proof of a vaccine, because of how well cruise operations are doing overseas, "These cruise ships are sailing in other parts of the world where they don't even have vaccines available and they're doing it safely and people are having a good time on it. So so they can do it."

Last week, it looked as though a compromise might be possible. Celebrity Cruises told travel agents on a webinar they are working with the Governor's office to find a solution to the issue.

Dondra Ritzenthaler, Celebrity Cruises Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service, said they were working with the Governors, "we're ironing out a statement that will articulate how cruising will be different than in the state."

Until a resolution is found, Ms. Ritzenthaler said Royal Caribbean Group's full protocols are on hold, "I would say that we are super close, but we will not come out with our total protocols and return to service until we get that formal statement from the governor."

After that call, officials from Governor DeSantis' office denied any discussions with the cruise line was happening.

DeSantis spokeswoman Pushaw on Thursday said it would be up to the cruise lines to develop solutions that don’t include vaccination requirements. "The ban on vaccine passports is not going to be lifted,” she said, “but in general, the law doesn’t stop private companies from taking other measures to protect against COVID-19."

South Florida Mayors ask Governor to lift ban on cruise ships asking for vaccine proof

In:
03Jun2021

While the public is left wondering if Florida will allow cruise ships to ask passengers for proof of a Covid-19 vaccine, Mayors of three South Florida cities are now publicly urging the Governor to change his mind.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) championed and signed into law a new bill that prohibts any company in Florida, including cruise lines, from asking customers to provide documentation certifying vaccination against or recovery from Covid-19.

Such a law makes it apparently impossible for cruise lines to restart cruises, since most are requiring its passengers to be fully vaccinated.

Over the last few weeks, everyone has been wondering if a special exemption would be provided for the beleaguered cruise industry, whom Governor DeSantis has been a major supporter.

Thus far, the Governor has not budged and insisted the law will remain in place.

Now, the Mayors of Broward County, Fort Lauderdale, and Hollywood are publicly asking the Governor to reconsider.

In a letter first shared by Miami Herald reporter Aaron Leibowitz, the Mayors sent a letter to allow cruise ships to "come up with a solution" so that cruise lines can operate.

The letters were sent by Broward Mayor Steve Geller, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, and Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy.

The Mayors believe because cruise ships are either interstate or international commerce, they do have the right under to be regulated by the federal government.

Like the Governor, the Mayors want the cruise industry to come back so that the jobs and revenue they produce can help the Florida economy.

Governor DeSantis believes requiring the vaccine is unnecessary, and put the law into place to prevent many businesses from now prohibiting people based on their vaccination status.

Last month, the Governor explained his position on the matter of cruise ships, "What we want is the cruise lines to be open. And we want them to be able to make decisions about how they're going to how they're going to handle a lot of this stuff. That obviously is within the context of a Florida policy that respects the medical privacy of all Floridians."

"I'll hear is most people don't like the idea that if they show up at a ballgame, they got to whip out vaccination records or some things like that. But some say, well, maybe on a cruise, maybe we could do that a little different. Trust me, it will not stop at that. The minute that they start doing this, they're going to continue to do it. It will expand."

The changes predicted for cruise ships after the pandemic that never happened

In:
Category: 
01Jun2021

The cruise industry in the United States has been shutdown for over 15 months, and in that time a lot of predictions were made of what a cruise might be like whenever they resumed.

The good news is the cruise industry is on its way back, and as we are on the precipice of ships sailing again, there are certainly a few "doom and gloom" predictions that turned out not to be accurate

One constant throughout the shutdown has been change, and what we know one month versus another month may be completely different. Some of these predictions or anticipated changes might have been accurate for the time, but were rolled back or abandoned due to many factors changing in the world around us.

I thought it might be fun to look back on the more memorable things we thought would happen to cruise ships that looks like it will not end up occurring.

Many more ships sold or scrapped

Early on in the shutdown when it appeared cruise lines would not be operating for far longer than anticipated, selling cruise ships to generate cash seemed like something many lines would do.

While there were plenty of cruise ships sold or scrapped, Royal Caribbean came out of the shutdown with far fewer ships disposed of than I think many expected.]

Some other cruise lines were forced to sell off older ships rapidly at the beginning of the cruise industry shutdown in order to generate cash flow and curb spending.

Royal Caribbean said goodbye to two of its ships: Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas.  The ship formerly known as Sovereign of the Seas was scrapped as well.

But Carnival and other lines sold off more ships, and many people thought many more ships would meet their demise sooner than later.

Elimination of the buffet

Last summer, the big question was if the cruise ship buffet would ever be offered again.

The rumor that cruise ship buffets might be axed came out of the uncertainty of new protocols, health recommendations, and a better understanding of Covid-19.

In May 2020, it looked like Royal Caribbean might completely redeveop the Windjammer buffet space and abandon the classic buffet. A couple of months later, we got confirmation the buffet was not going anywhere.

Since then, cruise ships have been able to restart cruises with the buffet in place, albeit in a full service manner, where crew members serve you the food instead of you serving yourself.

Fans of the Windjammer will be happy to know their beloved quick meal location is not going anywhere.

Bankruptcy

After a few rounds of cruise cancellations in 2020, there were more than a few cruise fans who thought cruise lines would have to fold and declare bankruptcy.

There were even some people that cancelled all of their bookings rather than take future cruise credits because they thought once the line went under, their money would disappear.

A few small lines did call it quits, such as Pullmantur Cruises, but the major and even mid-size brands are still in operation and looking to restart.

Granted, most lines took out substantial loans to stay afloat that will take years to pay back. But with new bookings on the rise, and future bookings strong, it looks like cruise lines will be around a while longer.

Back to back cruises banned

I am really not sure where this rumor got started, but right around the time the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moved from the No Sail Order to the Conditional Sail Order, there were rumors floating around that back to back cruises would not be allowed.

I think the notion for this rumor was based on one of the CDC's rules, which said cruises could not exceed 7 nights under the Conditional Sail Order.  Therefore, some thought a back to back cruise would not be permitted.

As it turns out, this was never a rule and speculation at best.  

2021 Alaska cruise season cancelled

Up until a few weeks ago, the Alaska cruise season being cancelled again this year seemed like a foregone conclusion.

Alaska's cruise season was entirely cancelled in 2020, and with Canada extending its cruise ship ban again through all of 2021, it seemed like it would be another lost year for cruises.

Thanks to the hard work of Alaska's congressional delegation, a bill to temporarily waive the cabotage laws that requires foreign-flagged ships to visit a foreign port when sailing from the United States was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President.

Not only are cruises legally able to sail to Alaska this year, Royal Caribbean and other lines announced new itineraries for sale.

Where and when we will have to wear masks on a ship

To be fair, this one is still in flux, but it looks like cruise ship passengers will not have to wear a face mask onboard a ship nearly as often as it looked like we would have to.

Thanks to declining Covid-19 cases, and an incredible proliferation of vaccines among the public, requirements by the CDC on face mask use have been scaled back.

Royal Caribbean has not released its health protocols for cruise ships sailing this summer yet, but there is no question mask use onboard will be required far less than if those rules had been posted a few months ago.

Just last week, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said masks would not be needed for the fully vaccinated, "We're optimistic that masks won't be required anywhere if you're vaccinated and since most people will be."

Cozumel homeport

Right around the time cruise lines were considering basing their ships outside the United States to get around the CDC, Cozumel really wanted to get in on the action.

The Mayor of Cozumel spoke on a radio show about the idea of basing ships from Cozumel.

It seemed like a good idea, until you realized the Mayor was speaking about a pier that did not exist yet, and the fact flights to the island of Cozumel are nearly impossible to find.

Despite the wishful thinking on behalf of the Mayor, no cruise line ever announced plans to go through with basing a ship in Cozumel.

Did I miss something we all thought was going to happen but it appears will not? Share your observations in the comments!

CDC gives cruise lines relaxed face mask guidelines and issues new rules for vaccinated passengers

In:
Category: 
26May2021

The CDC has relaxed a few rules for fully vaccinated cruise passengers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued updates its Operations Manual for Simulated and Restricted Voyages that primarily talk about what cruise lines are required to do as it pertains to guests onboard.

The new update covers a few changes in policies that either relax protocols, or give the cruise lines the choice to be less stringent.

In this round of updates, many of the rules focus on face masks for fully vaccinated passengers.

The first change is a cruise line can allow all passengers and crew they do not have to wear a mask outdoors.

Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise all passengers and crew that they do not have to wear a mask if outdoors. CDC still recommends that people wear a mask if they are not fully vaccinated and in a crowded area.

Second, the CDC has removed the suggestion to wear a mask outdoors in crowded settings.  Previously it said fully vaccinated passengers could gather outdoors or engage in outdoor activities, but would need to wear a mask if there was a "crowded situation".

Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise crew who are fully vaccinated that they do not have to wear a mask or maintain physical distance in areas of the ship that are inaccessible to passengers.

Another new option for cruise lines is there can be areas of the ship reserved for fully vaccinated passengers and crew that have no social distancing requirements.

The CDC even would allow self-serve buffets in an area reserved only for fully vaccinated passengers.

Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may designate areas as only accessible to fully vaccinated passengers and crew where masks and physical distancing are not required (e.g., casinos; bars; spas; entertainment venues; and dining areas, including self-serve buffets).

For ships with at least 95% of crew and 95% of passengers fully vaccinated, cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise passengers and crew that they do not have to wear a mask or maintain physical distance in any areas.

Another big change is if cruise ships can attain at least 95% fully vaccinated passengers and 98% fully vaccinated crew members, a number of rules will become suggestions instead.

This includes many of the onerous rules that added a great deal of friction to the cruise experience, including:

  • 6-foot social distancing at restaurants and bars
  • Limiting seating capacity 
  • Eliminate self-service buffets
  • Install sneeze guards

Royal Caribbean International currently has no plans to meet the 95/98 mandate due to the amount of families on their ships.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said earlier this week because Royal Caribbean is so family oriented and there are often large numbers of children, he does not think reaching 95% is possible.

The CDC also removed  the rule for fully vaccinated passengers on independent shore excursions have to wear a mask while indoors (unless local laws require it).

The changes are posted on the CDC's website.

This is the latest round of rule changes by the CDC over the last few weeks. Each time, the CDC has relaxed, adjusted, or otherwise removed rules. Many of the changes seem to be occurring following tight-knit conversations with the CDC.

Mr. Fain said the discussions between Royal Caribbean and the CDC has been fruitful as of late, "over the past weeks, that level of dialogue has improved one thousand percent and that dialogue has allowed us to understand their concerns. But in addition to that, dialogue has enabled the CDC to understand our concerns."

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