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Coast Guard wont fine you for not wearing a mask on a cruise ship, but you will get kicked off

17 Feb 2021
Matt Hochberg

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires people on public transportation to wear masks, but what is the penalty if you don't comply?

If you don't wear a face mask on an airplane, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will fine you, but the Coast Guard will not do the same for cruise ship guests violating the new Federal rules.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) passed a new order that requires people to wear masks on public transportation, which includes aircraft, train, road vehicle, vessel or other means of transport.

Passengers who refuse to wear masks can be fined $250 for the first infraction and up to $1,500 for repeat offenses on airplanes, airports, passenger rail, or buses.

What about cruise ships?

The CDC order definitely includes cruise ships as part of the order, but the TSA does not cover cruise ships.

Enforcement of the CDC's order on cruise ships will fall to the U.S. Coast Guard, and it appears there will not be the same type of individual fines levied.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard for clarification on fines for someone who goes on a cruise ship and tries to buck the cruise line rules by not wearing a mask.

A spokesperson for the Coast Guard provided a vague explanation that they intend to ensure cruise ships are enforcing the rules, but stopped short of saying they would fine passengers caught breaking the rules in a similar way that the TSA does.

The Coast Guard said that cruise lines must "use best efforts" to enforce the face mask rules, which includes:

  • boarding only those persons who wear masks;
  • instructing persons that federal law requires wearing a mask on the conveyance and failure to comply constitutes a violation of federal law;
  • monitoring persons onboard the conveyance for anyone who is not wearing a mask and seeking compliance from such persons;
  • at the earliest opportunity, disembarking any person who refuses to comply; and
  • providing persons with prominent and adequate notice to facilitate awareness and compliance of the requirement of this Order to wear a mask; best practices may include, if feasible, advanced notifications on digital platforms, such as on apps, websites, or email; posted signage in multiple languages with illustrations; printing the requirement on transit tickets; or other methods as appropriate.

"Conveyance operators may be subject to civil or criminal penalties should they fail to make best efforts to take appropriate actions regarding non-compliant passengers on their vessels.

"Failure to implement a mask wearing program may result in control action taken by the COTP directing the movement and operation of a vessel."

"Additionally, if passengers refuse to wear a mask, operators may provide the persons with prominent and adequate notice to facilitate awareness and compliance of the requirement of this Order to wear a mask, and instruct the person that federal law requires wearing a mask on the conveyance and failure to comply constitutes a violation of federal law; and Vessel operators are directed to make best efforts to, at the earliest opportunity, disembark any person who refuses to comply."

"Repeated failure to impose the mask mandate could result in civil penalties and/or criminal action. The Coast Guard is also charged with enforcing CDC laws and regulations, failure to adhere to the CDC mask order may result in civil or criminal penalties issued by the Coast Guard on behalf of the CDC.

"The COTP may issue orders prohibiting vessels from mooring at a port facility that fails to implement the CDC mask requirements."

While the Coast Guard may not fine anyone like the TSA will, they do recommend the cruise line kick them off the ship as soon as possible.

In the CDC's order, the agency says that criminal penalties are an option, but thinks most people will comply.

"While this Order may be enforced and CDC reserves the right to enforce through criminal penalties, CDC does not intend to rely primarily on these criminal penalties but instead strongly encourages and anticipates widespread voluntary compliance as well as support from other federal agencies in implementing additional civil measures enforcing the provisions of this Order, to the extent permitted by law and consistent with President Biden’s Executive Order of January 21, 2021"

Royal Caribbean requires guests to wear face masks on its Quantum of the Seas sailings in Singapore, and its cruise contract for all guests clearly states guests must wear masks in most locations outside of the Passenger’s cabin while onboard, during embarkation, disembarkation and shore excursions.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean adds COVID-19 into cruise contract for all passengers

The cruise contract goes on to say that if a passenger (or anyone in their traveling party) engages in noncompliance with new health protocols, they can be disembarked and reported to government authorities.