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CDC wants cruise lines to reconsider mask policies on cruise ships

28 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a new update to its cruise ship operations manual asking cruise lines to take another look at some of the onboard rules related to mask use.

Currently, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have certain areas of the ship where fully vaccinated guests can go and take off their masks while indoors. These areas are only open to fully vaccinated guests.

The CDC has issued an update recommending this practice stop because of the increased transmissibility of some Covid-19 variants, and published the new recommendation in its  Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).

On August 27, the CDC posted an update that it is recommending, but not requiring, cruise lines reconsider face mask rules such as these:

  • Allowing fully vaccinated crew to remove masks indoors in areas inaccessible to passengers
  • Designating areas as only accessible to fully vaccinated passengers and crew where masks and physical distancing are not required
  • Advising passengers and crew on ships with 95% of crew and 95% of passengers who are fully vaccinated that they do not have to wear a mask or maintain physical distance in any areas. 

Royal Caribbean currently has certain areas of its cruise ships designated for only fully vaccinated passengers, where passengers there are allowed to take off their mask while in this area.

Admission to these vaccinated areas is enforced by crew members who check if a passenger is vaccinated or not.

The exact list of venues available only to fully vaccinated passengers depends on the ship, but here are some examples:

  • The Chef’s Table
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • Schooner Bar
  • The Pub
  • Viking Crown Lounge
  • Solarium
  • Casino Royale
  • Vitality Spa

The CDC still allows cruise ships to offer select areas as only accessible to fully vaccinated passengers and crew where masks and physical distancing are not required, but this update is aimed at requesting the cruise lines to reconsider this policy.

The CDC also revised its testing requirements for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated cruise ship passengers for pre-embarkation, embarkation, and back-to-back sailing, for cruise ships operating under the CSO, including those choosing to follow CSO measures on a voluntary basis. 

The new recommendation matches what Royal Caribbean was already doing, which is require unvaccinated and fully vaccinated passengers bring a negative Covid test that was take no more than 3 days before boarding to the cruise terminal.

Royal Caribbean first added the requirement to get a negative Covid-19 test before cruises 5 nights or longer as of July 31, and then expanded that rule to include sailings of any length as of August 12.

Read moreWhen you should take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise?

According to the CDC, the change was made because of the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated people and the increased transmissibility of some Covid-19 variants of concern.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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