Beginning February 25, Royal Caribbean will make masks optional for fully vaccinated passengers.
The cruise line announced last week it would make the change as a result of opting into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) highly vaccinated program, which requires 95% passengers to be vaccinated.
While the vaccine requirement is now at a higher threshold than it was previously, it does allow Royal Caribbean to make face masks optional for fully vaccinated passengers.
Masks had been a cornerstone of Royal Caribbean's health protocols since cruises began sailing from the United States in July 2021. Spikes in Covid cases due to the Delta and Omicron variants forced Royal Caribbean to keep, and even tighten mask wearing, since that time.
Royal Caribbean had already rolled back its mask wearing rules to pre-Omicron as of February 15, 2022. This new change on February 25th will make them mostly optional.
Mask rules for U.S. sailings
So where and when will masks still be required? And when can you take it off?
Royal Caribbean has released the new mask requirements for sailings departing the U.S. and Puerto Rico on or after February 25, 2022.
Ninety-five percent of guests must be fully vaccinated, excluding children under five years who are not eligible for the vaccine.
Unvaccinated children to continue wearing masks indoors and in crowded settings. Masks are required for all children while at the Adventure Ocean youth program. Guests under 2 do not have to wear a mask at any time.
Masks should also be worn at the cruise terminal during the boarding and screening process, as well as during disembarkation.
Masks are optional at Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee.
The new rules are listed on Royal Caribbean's website.
At this time, Royal Caribbean has not yet determined its Covid-19 protocols for cruises in 2022 from Europe.
Royal Caribbean will convey those protocols at a later date.
Matching other cruise line policies
Royal Caribbean is not the only cruise line dropping mask rules.
Each of the major cruise lines has announced similar policies, including Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line. Both of these lines have either already stopped requiring that facial coverings be worn in most indoor settings or will do so beginning next month.
Virgin Voyages also announced it will drop its mask requirement.
Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises have not yet announced changes to their face mask policies, although Disney's theme parks made masks optional there.
Cruise fan reaction
Having to wear masks on cruise ships has been a hot button topic for cruise fans, and the general public. The
Few health protocols have been as contentious as having to wear a mask on a ship.
On the Royal Caribbean Blog Facebook page, there were quite a lot of comments regarding Royal Caribbean's decision to drop masks in exchange for requiring 95% of passengers be vaccinated.
Christie Smith wrote, "I really like this. It's a good step in the right direction."
Lindsay Murphy is waiting for more protocols to erode, "Maybe someday I'll cruise again, but to me it's just not worth it, vaccinated or not. I'll wait my turn."