With Omicron cases on cruise ships plummeting, Royal Caribbean will not extend its stricter face mask rules and will allow them to end.
In mid-December Royal Caribbean tightened its face mask protocols due to the increase of Covid-19 cases around the world due to the Omicron variant.
Specifically, face masks were required to be worn indoors at all times, unless actively eating or drinking. This included vaccinated-only zones.
Beginning February 15, 2022, the stricter mask rules will go away and that means guests will not have to wear face masks at venues designated for vaccinated guests only, such as select bars, lounges, restaurants, shows and Casino Royale.
During a webinar with travel agents, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, told travel agents the policy was changed yesterday, and beginning February 15, 2022 the stricter mask rules will go away.
"One thing that changed yesterday is we have now announced that in our casinos you will not be required to wear masks and you can smoke again in the smoking areas of the casino," Ms. Freed told travel agents.
Royal Caribbean International Assistant Vice President of Guest Experience, Aurora Yera-Rodriguez, told travel agents protocols will go back to the way they were before the stricter mask rules were added due to Omicron, "After February the 15th, we'll now allow smoking in the casino again. That is actually aligned, with us going back to protocol the way they were before, where you don't have to wear a mask in vaccinated areas."
"We'll go back to the way it was before on Omicron."
"As of right now, we did not push that additional mask restriction and casino smoking out to guests beyond the 15th. So hopefully we're in a good spot."
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.
- At venues designated for vaccinated guests only, such as select bars, lounges, restaurants, shows and Casino Royale. NOTE: For cruises departing through February 14, 2022, masks must be worn in vaccinated-only venues
- In your stateroom when you are with your traveling party.
- While visiting our private destinations, 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.
Falling Covid cases on ships
The change in protocols coincides with Covid cases onboard falling back to pre-Omicron levels.
Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty told investors last week that ship cases are significantly lower than the last two months, "In the last several weeks, cases on board our ships have been declining rapidly and we now have returned to exceptionally low pre-Omicron levels."
Over the last seven days, Royal Caribbean Group has averaged only "a handful of positive guest cases per cruise."
Other cruise lines relaxing protocols
Royal Caribbean's announcement comes a day after Norwegian Cruise Line said it would end its Omicron protocols as well.
NCL said beginning March 1, masks will no longer be required while indoors. Instead, they will be recommended.
Another change is NCL will now allow children under 5 years old to sail if they are unvaccinated, beginning on March 5.
In addition, NCL will require its passengers to test once at home before the cruise begins in an effort to speed up the check-in process.