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Face masks on Royal Caribbean: What you need to know

06 Dec 2021
Matt Hochberg

Ever since Royal Caribbean restarted cruises in 2021 during the Covid-19 pandemic, face masks have been at the core of the new protocol requirements.

Many people going on a cruise want to know if and when they will have to wear a face mask, as well as what sort of rules there are for mask wearing.

It’s no secret that masks are polarizing Americans, but this article is meant to simply convey Royal Caribbean's policies so you can more easily plan your cruise. If you want to argue about the mask policy, join a local debate club. If you want your voice to be heard about Royal Caribbean's rule in a meaningful way, contact the cruise line.

If you have a Royal Caribbean cruise booked, you can expect to wear a mask onboard in some scenarios. Here is what you need to know about wearing a face mask on a cruise ship, as well as answers to some commonly asked questions on the topic of masks.

Where and when do I need to wear a mask on Royal Caribbean?

Royal Caribbean's mask policy is reviewed periodically, but has been pretty consistent since the line restarted operations in 2021.

On December 17, 2021, the cruise line announced masks are required for all guests, regardless of vaccination status, at all times indoors except while eating or drinking. This includes at venues reserved for vaccinated guests only.

Note that this policy is in place for all sailings departing before February 14, 2022, at which point it will be reevaluated.

Masks are NOT required to be worn:

  • In open-air areas of the ship, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • In the pool or any activity where they may become wet.
  • In your stateroom when you are with your traveling party.
  • While visiting our private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • By any guest under the age of 2.

Masks ARE required to be worn:

  • While indoors in public areas of the ship, unless seated and actively eating or drinking.
  • While visiting public ports of call, where local regulations may require them.

What type of mask is allowed?

Royal Caribbean lists the following requirements for face masks:

  • Masks should be at least two layers of tight weave fabric with loops that fit over your ears in accordance with health guidelines. 
  • The mask should fit your face closely and cover your nose and mouth but allow you to breathe easily. 
  • Neck gaiters, open chin bandanas and scarves, and face masks with valves do not meet health authority guidelines and will not be permitted.

Are crew members enforcing wearing a mask?

The top questions people want to know about crew members on a cruise ship | Royal Caribbean Blog

Overall, the mask policy is being enforced by crew members onboard, although that is not to say every crew member is standing around looking to correct any guest with a mask below their nose.

Crew members work incredibly hard, and it's understandable that their regular duties require enough focus to not be able to police every guest walking around the ship.

However, if you think you can ignore the rule, soon enough a crew member or two will instruct you to put on your mask.  Certainly sometimes you may forget to put it on, and a friendly reminder will be given to wear one.  Likewise, if you need a mask, they can provide one to you.

The bottom line is the mask policy is more than just a suggestion, it is a requirement that passengers are held to.

Do I need to wear a mask on shore excursions?

Depending on the country you are visiting, and/or the tour operator, masks may be required.

Each country has its own rules regarding masks, and some require masks to be worn everywhere, including outdoors.

Ultimately, you will have to consult with the tour operator on if masks need to be worn during the tour entirely, but you should be aware there are national laws that require masks outside.

When will Royal Caribbean's indoor mask policy end?

There is no specific date or plan to rescind the mask policy.

As of November 2021, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley spoke on the topic of when masks might go away, but merely speculated as to some possibilities.  Keep in mind, his comments were made just before the Omicron variant of Covid-19 became big news.

"I think it's pretty it's pretty certain that the mask policy is going to change for the whole industry, for everybody as we move into the first quarter... as long as we don't see any more variants appearing on the scene."

"Sixty five percent of all of our customers feel comfortable with some kind of mask guidance. A lot of people do feel comfortable with it as being something optional."

"We're very thoughtful about it and have been because of our family market. So we're very sensitive to making sure we're not alienating a large group of customers."

"I think for the industry and for our business, week by week, month by month, these things are going to start slipping away and we're going to get back to quite a quite a normal environment.

What are the best masks to wear on a cruise?

There are lots of masks to purchase, but without a doubt one of the best options right now based on recommendations from health experts is a KN95 face mask. [Note, this contains an affiliate link]

Early on, these medical grade masks were hard to come by, but you should be able to purchase as many as you want these days.

KN95 masks offer very high performance in terms of filtration, and are comfortable to wear while providing a snug fit around your nose and chin.

KN95 masks are also fairly cheap, as production as ramped up so there are lots to consider.  

Cloth mask

If you prefer a reusable mask, you should look for a woven mask that offers multi-layer protection.

Since going on a cruise means it will be hot, the masks by Suay LA tend to get very good reviews for offering a breathable mask that is good in hot weather.

These are constructed from medical grade non-woven polypropylene surgical wrap and have a nosepiece. 

Backup masks

You should plan on bringing many more masks than you think you will need, because once masks become soiled and/or wet, they are not effective anymore.

In addition to purchasing more KN95 or cloth masks, another economical idea is to pick up disposable 3-ply face masks. [Note, this contains an affiliate link]

These disposable masks are a good back-up choice, as well as a good choice if you elect to double mask. 

How many masks should I bring on my cruise?

Depending on how active or if you sweat a lot, your mask needs may vary.

A good idea is to plan on 2-3 masks per person, per day to be safe.

Many reusable masks, can be hand-washed and dried overnight in your stateroom cabin.

Even if you prefer the cloth reusable masks, having some disposable masks is a good backup just in case.