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CDC will require everyone to wear face masks on cruise ships

30 Jan 2021
Matt Hochberg

When cruises restart, passengers onboard will have to wear a mask.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) passed a new order that requires people to wear masks on public transportation.

"Persons must wear masks over the mouth and nose when traveling on conveyances into and within the United States. Persons must also wear masks at transportation hubs as defined in this Order."

The order pertains to forms of travel including aircraft, train, road vehicle, vessel or other means of transport.

The order goes into effect as of February 1, 2021.

It applies within any state, locality, territory, with the exceptions of while eating, drinking, or taking medication, for brief periods.

Children under 2 years old are exempt, as well as a person with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of the disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Cruise lines must provide adequate notice of the rule and disembarking any person who refuses to comply. Moreover, guests should be made aware that Federal law requires wearing a mask on the conveyance and failure to comply constitutes a violation of Federal law.

The new rules require what the cruise lines have already agreed to do on their own.

The Healthy Sail Panel proposed passengers and crew members wear face masks on cruise ships back in September 2020.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean new cruise ship health protocols include masks, social distancing, testing and more

Royal Caribbean specified in its rules face masks will be required on its cruise ships when they return to service, with exceptions similar to what the CDC outlined.

Specifically, Royal Caribbean says guests should wear face masks in nearly all public settings regardless of physical distancing measures but will not be required to wear face masks in their own stateroom.

There are exceptions, however, such as dining venues, where guests can eat and drink without face masks while seated, provided physical distancing is observed. All restaurant seating will be arranged to allow for physical distancing, so guests can eat and drink without face masks while seated, and tables and chairs will be disinfected.

Read moreWhere and when will you have to wear a mask on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Also, guests should not wear masks while engaged in activities that may cause the mask to become wet, like when swimming in our pools, or when participating in strenuous activities, such as jogging, running, or fitness classes at the Vitality Spa and Fitness Center.

Face masks will be required at all bars or nightclubs when not seated and actively eating or drinking with your party. 

Crew members will wear masks at all times, and gloves.

It is unclear yet if Royal Caribbean will change any of these protocols based on this new order.

The rationale for the new rule is aimed at ensuring people in close contact are not putting the public health at risk.

"Traveling on multi-person conveyances increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 by bringing persons in close contact with others, often for prolonged periods, and exposing them to frequently touched surfaces.

"Air travel often requires spending time in security lines and crowded airport terminals. Social distancing may be difficult if not impossible on flights. People may not be able to distance themselves by the recommended 6 feet from individuals seated nearby or those standing in or passing through the aircraft’s aisles."

Read more5 ways cruise ships have tougher COVID-19 protocols than airplanes

"Travel by bus, train, vessel, and other conveyances used for international, interstate, or intrastate transportation pose similar challenges."

The CDC believes using masks along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched
surfaces, is one of the most effective strategies available for reducing COVID-19 transmission.

More information