Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Changes Its Vaccine Requirements

The cruise line has made a move many have been waiting for.

The covid pandemic has not ended, but the United States has gotten better at managing it. People still get infected, but the easy availability of vaccines as well as new treatments has kept serious illness from overwhelming America’s hospitals.

Most of the country has simply moved past the covid pandemic. You might see people opting to wear masks in certain places in public, but the country had been fully back open for business for months.

The cruise industry has lagged behind the rest of the travel industry. That’s because Royal Caribbean International (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report, and the rest of the cruise lines that sail 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 stop its covid tracking program on cruise ships. The government agency did provide guidance for the cruise industry, but it stopped even its voluntary monitoring program.

That led to Virgin Voyage, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival, among others, to either fully drop pre-cruise covid testing (Virgin) or only require it on voyages six nights and over (Royal Caribbean and Carnival). Virgin also loosened its vaccine requirement. Previously, all customers on the adults-only ships had to be vaccinated. Now, up to 10% of passengers can sail without being vaccinated.

Read: Carnival Follows Royal Caribbean in Making a Key Covid Change

Now, just a few days after Virgin Voyages policy change, Royal Caribbean has changed its vaccination rules.

Image source: Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Royal Caribbean Changes its Vaccine Requirement

During much of the pandemic era, since cruising from U.S. ports returned in July 2021, all passengers ages 12 and over had to prove they had been fully vaccinated at least two weeks before sailing. Now, the cruise line has made a pretty major change and President Michael Bayley shared the news on social, which was first reported by the Royal Caribbean Blog (which is not 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 vaccinated population greater than society and which continues to exempt kids 12 and under and we will welcome unvaccinated guests over 12 and guests with a certificate of recovery within 90 days to travel keeping in mind our ships will typically sail with with 80 percent plus vaccinated guests onboard,” he shared.

That’s a lower threshold than the 90% vaccinated Virgin will sail with, but Royal Caribbean has always had around 90% vaccinated on its ships because it allows kids under the age of 12 to not be vaccinated. Bayley did not share how the cruise line would allot the slots for unvaccinated passengers.

The cruise line has dropped all pre-cruise testing for sailings less than 6 nights. In all cases, the protocols may vary on a particular sailing if the destination has different rules than the cruise line. It’s also possible that destinations could choose to not allow unvaccinated passengers off the ship or require all visitors to wear masks in some situations.

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