The cruise industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic: most cruise lines have seen their fleets stay put since March 2020.
However, Royal Caribbean has recently become the first cruise line to receive CDC approval to sail in U.S. waters, with a cruise reserved for volunteers from June 20 to 22 departing from Miami.
Now, Royal Caribbean announced that it would increase the number of active ships operating in US waters by six, effective July 2. While the company claims that all crew members will be fully vaccinated, it will be do not require proof of vaccination from all passengers, according to a press release.
“Guests are strongly recommended to leave fully vaccinated, if they are eligible,” the statement said. “Those who are not vaccinated or who cannot verify vaccination will need to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date.”
The fact that the company does not require proof of vaccination for passengers is linked to a controversial law passed in Florida, from which many currently scheduled cruises will depart, which prohibits companies from requiring proof of vaccination, according to the Washington Post. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ staff previously said cruise lines could be fined $ 5,000 per violation for asking for proof of vaccination, according to the Post.
Texas has passed similar legislation, so all ships departing from Texas ports will have similar policies in place. However, Royal Caribbean will require vaccinations for cruises departing from other destinations, such as ships leaving Seattle for Alaska, sailing to the Bahamas, or departing from international ports.
Since the lifting of its “no shipping order” on October 30, the CDC has slowly started allowing the industry to resume operations under certain strict health and safety guidelines, such as recommend that passengers, crew and port workers are all vaccinated. It also requires ships to take volunteers on a test cruise to show how they can manage the risks associated with the spread of COVID-19 before they can take paying passengers, although this step can be skipped if 95% of all passengers are vaccinated by post.
The CDC has given the green light to nine ships operated by Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises to begin test cruises to date, according to the Washington Post. Two of the Royal Caribbean Celebrity cruises sister ships were even allowed to go straight to cruise.
Royal Caribbean has also abandoned the itinerary of cruises scheduled for the summer.
“This is it,” Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley said in a statement. “Vacationers can finally plan to take their precious time this summer and really get away from it all after what has been a tough time for everyone.”
Here is Royal Caribbean’s summer lineup:
- Freedom of the Seas: Three- and Four-Night Bahamas & Perfect Day at CocoCay from Miami on July 2
- Odyssey of the Seas: Six- and Eight-Night Southern and Western Caribbean Cruises from Fort Lauderdale starting July 3
- Serenade of the Seas: Seven-Night Alaska Crossings from Seattle starting July 19
- Allure of the Seas: Seven-Night Eastern and Western Caribbean Itineraries from Port Canaveral starting August 8
- Ovation of the Seas: Seven-Night Alaska Itineraries from Seattle starting August 13
- Symphony of the Seas: Seven-Night Eastern and Western Caribbean Cruises from Miami starting August 14
- Independence of the Seas: Seven-Night Western Caribbean Crossings from Galveston, Texas, starting August 15
- Mariner of the Seas: Bahamas Three & Four Night Cruises & Perfect Day at CocoCay from Port Canaveral starting August 23
Additionally, the Harmony of the Seas will arrive in Europe from August 15th. The ship will travel to Palma de Mallorca, Spain, and Provence, France.
Royal Caribbean has yet to announce the full extent of its COVID-19 security protocols, and it is still unclear at what capacity the ships will sail. However, the company says on its website that it will work under CDC guidelines.