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Richard Fain discusses RC's vaccine strategies


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This is just getting ridiculous... just say something! Sadly I will not be booking any cruise in the US until all of this is settled. I am going on a B2B out of Nassau because they seem to have their stuff together.

Hopefully somebody gives us an answer! Especially after Texas today decided to join in with Florida.

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I would have preferred him to say it more directly, but it seems this is their answer.

"We think enough people will be vaccinated anyway, so no point in requiring the vaccine"

If you were to pump truth serum in his veins, he might say:

"We think enough people will be vaccinated anyway, so no point in requiring the vaccine....and there's that Florida law we can't get around, so that too."

I still don't know how a ship like Celebrity Edge, which requires 95% vaccinated, will operate from a legal standpoint.

 

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Even without FL law, they know that they might not be able to meet CDC 98% crew & 95% passenger threshold instead of test cruise option 

and if Royal set their own vaccine threshold of 95% passenger, could that even be possible with summer sailings with amount of children under 12 and 12-16 year old whose parents don’t want to vaccinate children. It would be a challenge even without FL law. They know the amount of children on board.  What would Royal do, cancel those without vaccinations? Rebook cruises in a short turnaround in an all ready shortened summer season? 
 

And when guest were surveyed, that survey is only good as who was sampled and who replied. But even at 80% guests saying the prefer vaccinated cruises that still leaves 20% unvaccinated if those numbers play out in a real cruise but we know they won’t 

I did find it interesting he didn’t mention the start of Odyssey on July 3rd

 

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Transcript of Richard Fain’s video released on 6/7/2021.

Hello again travel partners! We here at the Royal Caribbean Group hope you’re all having a great start to summer especially as cruising is beginning to resume in earnest. In response to questions from some of you, my wife is still acting as my cameraperson, but I expect I’ll soon be back in the office with professional help. Actually, I’m not eager to give this up. I’ve enjoyed doing these videos with her and I will miss her “constructive” criticism.

Management guru Tom Peters once said, “if you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.” Well, I’m paying attention and I’m confused as hell. Overall, of course I’m a very happy camper because our healthy return to service is well underway and that’s very exciting. But I’m still confused about the details involved in getting us there. Let me try and explain my view of the current state of play, knowing that it’s all going to change tomorrow.

The key to everything is the vaccines. They are proving to be the game changer that we all hoped for. Fortunately, our country is in a strong leadership position regarding vaccines. The US was in the forefront of developing the vaccines and the US is in the forefront of delivering them. Already almost 2/3rds of adults have gotten them, and that number is climbing. America is leading the world in this regard and when I talk to people in Europe and Asia, they look at us with envy.

As more and more of the country gets vaccinated, the role of the vaccine is beginning to morph. Initially when the number of vaccinated was small, the vaccines mainly protected the person taking the vaccine. That’s still true that vaccines protect each of us individually. But today as we get vaccinated, we’re not only helping ourselves, we're helping the people around us. In order to reopen society, we need large numbers of people to be vaccinated. Even if we don’t feel that we need the protection for ourselves, we should still do it to help our friends and neighbors. It’s a bit like litter. If I drop a piece of litter on the ground, it makes an insignificant impact on the environment. But if a lot of people drop litter, the cumulative impact is enormous. The same thing’s true of vaccines. Getting one today not only protects you from the virus, it protects the whole society and allows us to get back to normalcy.

Which brings us to the question of vaccines on board our ships. We believe vaccines can help make our cruise ships not only as safe as land-based activities but even safer. That's because we control the environment in a way that few on land can even dream of.

If I go into a store on land or go to a theme park or attend an event the ability of the operator to vet who enters is limited. They can't do extensive screening for something that’s only going to last for a few hours. All they can do is implement protocols to limit interaction once the people are there. But such protocols are more intrusive and less effective than preventing the introduction of the virus in the first place.

On the other hand, cruise guests will be on for days and days and we can therefore enact extensive requirements before people board designed to prevent the virus from coming on board in the first place. In effect we can establish processes designed to prevent COVID from entering the ship, creating a sort of bubble. That bubble not only gives greater protection than available almost anywhere, but it also means that we don’t have to have such extensive operating protocols. The result is not only a safer cruise but a better and more enjoyable one.

So, as I said before we intend to vaccinate all our crew members. 100%. In fact, we’ve already given vaccines to 16,465 seafarers. Clearly, we’re not messing around.

On top of that, we want all of our guests to be vaccinated as well. We want that because we believe it makes us all safer. And we want that because our guests want that. In our surveys the vast majority have either already received a vaccination or are about to do so. Ideally everyone on board would be vaccinated.

But in practice there have to be some exceptions. The main exception will be children under 12 who cannot get a vaccine today. But children tend to spend time in the family unit and studies have shown that children are a lesser source of infection than adults. Soon children as young as five years old will be eligible. That will result in even fewer exceptions.

Now this raises the issue of the Florida law which prohibits business in Florida from requiring proof of vaccination for services within the state. This unique law only applies within Florida. While we obviously have to comply with the law of the land, we do not believe that we will have significant numbers of unvaccinated for several reasons. Remember, the vast bulk of our guests want vaccinations and, in most cases, already have them.

In addition, due to the health and legal requirements of many jurisdictions, those who are unvaccinated will need to undergo additional testing and other restrictions. That necessarily adds to their cost and adds limitations on the cruise for those people who choose to be unvaccinated. There would be no additional cost for children who are not eligible for the vaccine.

Our plan therefore continues to be that virtually everyone who’s eligible for a vaccine will have one. On some of our ships with fewer children, including Celebrity and Silversea and some Royal Caribbean International ships, we will ensure that the percent vaccinated will exceed 95%. On other ships we expect almost everyone over 12 will be vaccinated. The specifics are confusing and there will undoubtedly be movement of the various details during the coming weeks.

I know some observers will greet each issue, each minute action, each side comment as momentous. But we should all take a collective breath. We're working through the details in a positive and constructive manner. While there will inevitably be some elements of confusion as we do so, the outcome isn't in any real doubt.

After 15 months of no forward motion suddenly everything is happening at lightspeed. We are moving forward, and cruising is restarting. All the parties seem aligned that cruising needs to restart. The CDC in Atlanta are now constructively dialoguing with us. The governor and other Florida officials clearly want to welcome the jobs that cruising generates. The mayors and other officials are eager for our return. Even Congress understands the importance of our industry, passing, unanimously, the bill that allows us to provide cruises to Alaska this summer. Can you think of one other piece of legislation that got every member of Congress to support it? OMG, rarely have so many different interests agreed on one thing and that thing is the importance of the cruise industry restarting in a healthy manner. Therefore, it's all happening. We are moving inexorably towards the total resumption of cruising in a safe and healthy manner.

So last Saturday Celebrity Millennium started her first voyage in 15 months leaving from Sint Maarten to destinations in the Caribbean. In less than a week Adventure of the Seas will start sailing from Nassau. In just two weeks Celebrity Edge will depart Port Everglades with our own Captain Kate at the helm. On July 2nd, Freedom of the Seas will leave PortMiami on her first sailing to Nassau and our incomparable private island Perfect Day at CocoCay. And during the rest of the year, we will be methodically bringing back the rest of our fleet. By the way, I intend to be on these inaugural sailings from Miami to celebrate. I really do have a tough job but taking these inaugural cruises… that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make!

So, while I may not know every detail of the process, I can assure you of this: we will not restart any ship unless and until we are confident of two things. Firstly, that it is safe to do so and more so than shoreside equivalents, and secondly that the experience on board meets our exacting expectations, including guest ratings of the cruise at least equal to what they were pre-pandemic.

One of the reasons I’m so confident of the experience going forward comes from my discussions with our employees. Those conversations frankly have been very emotional for me. You all know that it’s our crew that makes our cruises so special and has for 50 years. The ships are exceptional, of course, but the crew are the people that take the experience to the next level. But while the crew are normally amazing, they are walking on cloud 9 today. It's just so emotional to talk to them and to see their enthusiasm. Frankly you can't talk to them without being overwhelmed by their emotions. That excitement is contagious, and your clients will be the beneficiaries.

And something similar is happening with our guests. We can already see from the first sailing on Celebrity Millennium how people are reacting. After 15 long months of isolation, the freedom of being in this kind of bubble is incredibly liberating.

So, start counting the days on your fingers. Mark the dates off on your calendars. Make sure your businesses are ready to respond to the pent-up demand. Summer is starting in the United States and cruising is going to be a big part of it. And don't forget to get your vaccine and wash your hands!

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29 minutes ago, TXcruzer said:

Am I misinterpreting his commentary that the unvaccinated would be financial responsible for the additional testing they would require on board?

 

Is this a nudge to promote vaccines?

Somewhat do think it was a subtle hint towards extra incurred costs towards those who are eligible to be vaccinated but are not.

Excerpt from @dswallowpost: In addition, due to the health and legal requirements of many jurisdictions, those who are unvaccinated will need to undergo additional testing and other restrictions. That necessarily adds to their cost and adds limitations on the cruise for those people who choose to be unvaccinated. There would be no additional cost for children who are not eligible for the vaccine.

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I blame the CDC for this.  Children who are not eligible should have been exempted from the vaccine requirements for a "fully vaccinated" cruise, which is the option that RC would have preferred.  

Personally, I don't really care whether non vaccinated people are on a cruise with me, or what the rules for those people are as long as it doesn't affect me.  My only slight concern would be an outbreak amongst the non vaccinated people ending the cruise suddenly - which is highly unlikly if we are testing beforehand.

Cases are dropping all over the country so this may all be a moot point soon.

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34 minutes ago, CGTLH said:

Somewhat do think it was a subtle hint towards extra incurred costs towards those who are eligible to be vaccinated but are not.

Excerpt from @dswallowpost: In addition, due to the health and legal requirements of many jurisdictions, those who are unvaccinated will need to undergo additional testing and other restrictions. That necessarily adds to their cost and adds limitations on the cruise for those people who choose to be unvaccinated. There would be no additional cost for children who are not eligible for the vaccine.

I think he just means everyone's cruise will cost more to accommodate the people who are eligible to be vaccinated and choose not to be.   That's how it usually works.  This is already happening I think when I look at the cost of future cruises.  

 

39 minutes ago, dswallow said:

Now this raises the issue of the Florida law which prohibits business in Florida from requiring proof of vaccination for services within the state. This unique law only applies within Florida. While we obviously have to comply with the law of the land,

I'm curious about this statement which he doesn't elaborate on. I wonder if once the ship is out to sea they will start asking, start testing and start restricting?

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1 hour ago, Matt said:

I would have preferred him to say it more directly, but it seems this is their answer.

"We think enough people will be vaccinated anyway, so no point in requiring the vaccine"

If you were to pump truth serum in his veins, he might say:

"We think enough people will be vaccinated anyway, so no point in requiring the vaccine....and there's that Florida law we can't get around, so that too."

I still don't know how a ship like Celebrity Edge, which requires 95% vaccinated, will operate from a legal standpoint.

 

It does seem strange.  Is there any chance they struck some kind of compromise that would allow Celebrity to operate outside the ban given they have other options that don’t require it (RCI).  Seems far fetched they would do that (Desantis), but he does need to get out the corner he is in.

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37 minutes ago, CGTLH said:

Somewhat do think it was a subtle hint towards extra incurred costs towards those who are eligible to be vaccinated but are not.

 

That's kind of what I mean by him starting a thought, then not delivering the punchline. Just moving onto the next joke.

 

1 hour ago, Matt said:

.and there's that Florida law we can't get around, so that too.

That still seems to be an announcement waiting to happen, some joint statement on how cruise ships aren't bound by the FL law.  

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"Now this raises the issue of the Florida law which prohibits business in Florida from requiring proof of vaccination for services within the state. This unique law only applies within Florida. While we obviously have to comply with the law of the land, we do not believe that we will have significant numbers of unvaccinated for several reasons. Remember, the vast bulk of our guests want vaccinations and, in most cases, already have them."

I think some parts of this talk are worded very carefully.

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3 hours ago, TXcruzer said:

Am I misinterpreting his commentary that the unvaccinated would be financial responsible for the additional testing they would require on board?

 

Is this a nudge to promote vaccines?

That is exactly what it sounded like to me.  His comments on unvaccinated passengers did lead me to believe those to choose to cruise but are not vaccinated may incur higher cost and more restrictions once onboard the ship.

I didn't take it as he was trying to twist customers arm into getting vaccinated.  Instead I took as he is letting customers know if you choose to not get vaccinated and choose to take a cruise you will be responsible for covering all additional cost needed to make sure Royal prevents a COVID outbreak onboard one of their ships.  So basically he is giving customers a choice while making them aware of the financial responsibility they will incur if they choose to cruise unvaccinated.

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3 hours ago, wordell1 said:

I blame the CDC for this.  Children who are not eligible should have been exempted from the vaccine requirements for a "fully vaccinated" cruise, which is the option that RC would have preferred.  

Personally, I don't really care whether non vaccinated people are on a cruise with me, or what the rules for those people are as long as it doesn't affect me.  My only slight concern would be an outbreak amongst the non vaccinated people ending the cruise suddenly - which is highly unlikly if we are testing beforehand.

Cases are dropping all over the country so this may all be a moot point soon.

This ^^^^

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There is a lot of room for speculation as to motives and protocols. Based on what is a rapidly changing set of rules in every state, it seems likely there will be fewer restrictions than what many assume. The fact that the  Celebrity sailing this weekend could only attract a 25% capacity in the face of an overwhelming demand after a 15 month shutdown speaks volumes. I believe fewer restrictions will be in place in order to fill ships.

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@Matt said, "I still don't know how a ship like Celebrity Edge, which requires 95% vaccinated, will operate from a legal standpoint."

RCG has two brands: Bailey decides Celebrity cruises from FL with a vaccination requirement for pax. RCL, for legitimate reasons, eschews a vaccination requirement for pax, chooses not to confront Desantis and goes with a hybrid pax manifest and all the problems that is going to bring to the cruise experience.

I am 99% sure the Desantis ruling is not lawful and I've explained why here and read plenty of legal experts who say it isn't lawful and can be challenged in court. Celebrity will cruise, now along with Del Rio's NCL adding some weight to defying Desantis, who announced his ships will sail from Miami with vaccinations required. Both lines will take FL to court if FL attempts on the pier enforcement or levies fines after the fact.

Like many have offered, this is the dumbest thing Desantis has done among many brilliant pandemic moves he's made. It amounts to poorly chosen posturing to his base, probably on the advise of Trump connected political advisors. I suspect behind the scenes, there are face saving alternatives emerging for Desantis to gracefully back out of this. If he chooses to press ahead with is ban and the lines sail and challenge him in court, it is going to explode in a firestorm of criticism. If, after actively supporting efforts to restart cruising from FL ports and suing the CDC, he then blocks restarts he's going to look like a complete dumbass. That is because business, including the cruise lines, have a moral and ethical responsibility to create a safe environment for guests and employees. The absolute best way to do that, given the wide availability of vaccines, is to assure everyone on that ship that can be vaccinated is vaccinated.

As I write that last line, I wonder if the governor actually understands how stupid his defiance is looking and will look if he tries to enforce his ridiculous ban at the pier or, after the fact, levies fines.

 

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I think there might be simple solution.

RCL are not a Florida business therefore as I read it like that :

"We can not ask you for vaccine proff at port but we can ask you during the online check in to send if you want a prof of being vaccinated. Whoever not providing us with this prof during the online check in must bring to the port a PCR testing on his on cost no matter if he is vaccinated or not as you can not show your vaccinated card in port... " 

 

 

 

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9 hours ago, JasonOasis said:

That is exactly what it sounded like to me.  His comments on unvaccinated passengers did lead me to believe those to choose to cruise but are not vaccinated may incur higher cost and more restrictions once onboard the ship.

I didn't take it as he was trying to twist customers arm into getting vaccinated.  Instead I took as he is letting customers know if you choose to not get vaccinated and choose to take a cruise you will be responsible for covering all additional cost needed to make sure Royal prevents a COVID outbreak onboard one of their ships.  So basically he is giving customers a choice while making them aware of the financial responsibility they will incur if they choose to cruise unvaccinated.

Im interested how it affects UK children who may not be eligible? Additional costs/restrictions?

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He is doing the best he can with ever changing information, trying to balance keeping the regulators happy enough and satisfying his customers and employees.  

All that said, the requirements to cruise have changed, don't hold my money hostage or give me "options" I don't want.  

Do the right thing and refund those that want refunds, I am sure there are many willing to take my place.  

 

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It would help if they would just release expected protocols on the NOT-95% ships.   Soon - so people could make up their minds whether the protocols are acceptable to them.  
 

Carnival promised to have their protocols by Friday for their July sailings.
 


 

 

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3 hours ago, icf75 said:

Im interested how it affects UK children who may not be eligible? Additional costs/restrictions?

These are the sorts of corner cases that Royal Caribbean hasn't dealt with well. Things like a 16-17 year-old from the UK trying to sail on Adventure of the Seas, where Royal requires everyone 16 and older to be vaccinated, but that's not possible for the 16-17 year-old from the UK. There similar issues with a short window between kids 16 or 17 who also were booked and were going to be tested, but now had to be vaccinated, but couldn't be fully vaccinated in time because the sailing was too soon after they were finally eligible for the vaccine, so even if they got an appointment on the very day they became eligible, they couldn't be fully vaccinated.

Corner cases But not that hard to predict when you change protocols amidst known variables in what can be done. But you need to be in the mindset of thinking about things like different protocols for vaccinations in countries other than the US. At least now in the US in most places there's sufficient vaccine supply to be able to start the process when one is ready to start. It's now just a shame so few of those remaining unvaccinated seem to be ready.

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As mentioned before - why aren't these cruise lines moving up to NJ (or other state that allows them) and start sailing with vaccinated cruises only. Everyone has a lot to lose if there is a Covid outbreak on any ship during this startup period. Testing is not  reliable, note Jon Rahm who tested negative  then tested positive - testing was done during consecutive days, a chance at $1.5 million down the drain, ouch. 

I am getting the feeling that the cruise lines are reluctant to start US cruising and are waiting for one of them to be first to see what happens.  I also think both Texas and Florida are painting themselves into a corner - I hope they do not drag Alaska into the mess. 

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I think the reason why NY/NJ ports are not sailing yet is the length/type of cruises. In FL and Texas, they can restart with 4-7 night cruises, very easily. Most cruises from the east coast are 7+ days. It is almost not possible to do 3-4 night cruises, with Canada's borders closed and the time it takes to reach the Bahamas.

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13 minutes ago, rcdave said:

As mentioned before - why aren't these cruise lines moving up to NJ (or other state that allows them) and start sailing with vaccinated cruises only.

I would love it if they did! (Full disclaimer here - I live in Jersey)

As far as I can tell, there wouldn't be any legal reason why they couldn't do this. But I think all cruises out of Cape Liberty (Freedom and Oasis) this summer have been canceled.

I'm purely speculating here but I would think it would have to do with travel time to and from Caribbean ports. Any cruise out of Cape Liberty requires at least 2 sea days to get to anywhere in the Caribbean or Bermuda.

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8 minutes ago, Ampurp85 said:

I think the reason why NY/NJ ports are not sailing yet is the length/type of cruises. In FL and Texas, they can restart with 4-7 night cruises, very easily. Most cruises from the east coast are 7+ days. It is almost not possible to do 3-4 night cruises, with Canada's borders closed and the time it takes to reach the Bahamas.

Ah I was two seconds too late with my post!

But yes, this was what I getting at.

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Just my 2 cents:

I don't think he can ask unvaccinated cruisers to pay extra for anything they might incur, above and beyond treatment (which I think anyone should have to pay for on their own, regardless of vaccination status). If you get sick/injured on a cruise, then it's up to you to pay for the treatment. At least that's how I see it, and why I always buy insurance. Also, they can't ask you if you're vaccinated, so they can't make treatment payment assumptions based on that status, right?

I don't think the vaccination concern should be as much of a concern as it is at the moment. Someone correct me if my numbers are way off, but isn't it like above 60% of the country that has had at least one shot? That's not even counting the people who have natural immunity from getting COVID. Those studies are showing that our own antibodies are very effective as well.

Between the large numbers who have been vaccinated and the large numbers who have had COVID, I genuinely believe that herd immunity on a ship is going to be a real thing. 

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22 minutes ago, rcdave said:

As mentioned before - why aren't these cruise lines moving up to NJ (or other state that allows them) and start sailing with vaccinated cruises only. Everyone has a lot to lose if there is a Covid outbreak on any ship during this startup period. Testing is not  reliable, note Jon Rahm who tested negative  then tested positive - testing was done during consecutive days, a chance at $1.5 million down the drain, ouch. 

I am getting the feeling that the cruise lines are reluctant to start US cruising and are waiting for one of them to be first to see what happens.  I also think both Texas and Florida are painting themselves into a corner - I hope they do not drag Alaska into the mess. 

I feel like the ones dragging Alaska into it is Canada, but that's just how my brain works. It is unfortunate that Alaska can only sail if Canada lets them visit, but that's what they agreed to when they set up the cruises from Alaska, so of course there is going to be reliance on that other country to do its part. Sadly, I do not see Canada opening anytime soon. Dropping the CSO entirely would allow the bulk of the cruise industry to get going full swing. I don't want Alaska left out of it (I've been and it's lovely beyond words), and I wish Canada were not set on the course it's on. 

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13 minutes ago, Bowen said:

Between the large numbers who have been vaccinated and the large numbers who have had COVID, I genuinely believe that herd immunity on a ship is going to be a real thing. 

You are correct. However, the epidemiologic term, "herd immunity" has fallen out of favor. That is because technically the term implies eradication of a viral spread - a hazy term at best.  It's been replaced by the concept of manageable disease burden. That is obtainable in a given region or country. Herd immunity wrt SARS2 is probably not obtainable.

But your observation that herd immunity could be a "real thing" aboard ship is possible. That is because the cohort potentially achieving it - cruise ship pax and crew -  is relatively small. Some cruise lines, for all intent and purpose, are trying to create a "bubble" by requiring vaccinations to sail. IMO, this is the best way to achieve the absolute lowest risk of an infection occurring aboard ship - let alone an outbreak - in the critical restart period (the first couple of months). It is also the very best way to not incur the exorbitant costs of having to cut a cruise short due to an outbreak aboard and have to deal with refunds, medical and air transport costs, etc.

One can argue about whether this is good policy or bad considering all the aspects of a cruise line choosing revenue sailings through the 98/95 path or the test cruises required for a hybrid pax manifest path. But there is no arguing that a requirement for all crew and passengers to be vaccinated for a revenue sailing reduces the risk of a SARS2 infection or outbreak to as close to zero as is possible     

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51 minutes ago, rcdave said:

As mentioned before - why aren't these cruise lines moving up to NJ (or other state that allows them) and start sailing with vaccinated cruises only.

I have nothing against NJ for some cruises.  A Bermuda cruise with a stop in Boston on the way back was great.  A New England/Canada fall cruise sometime in the future is on the bucket list.  However, where I live it is cold in the winter especially in January and February.  There is something nice about getting on a plane and flying to Florida in the winter.  We usually spend time in Florida before and after the cruise.  NJ isn't quite so appealing in the wintertime.

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4 hours ago, Bowen said:

I feel like the ones dragging Alaska into it is Canada, but that's just how my brain works. It is unfortunate that Alaska can only sail if Canada lets them visit, but that's what they agreed to when they set up the cruises from Alaska, so of course there is going to be reliance on that other country to do its part. Sadly, I do not see Canada opening anytime soon. Dropping the CSO entirely would allow the bulk of the cruise industry to get going full swing. I don't want Alaska left out of it (I've been and it's lovely beyond words), and I wish Canada were not set on the course it's on. 

I don't believe Canada has any influence at all on the Alaskan season this year.  With the passage of the ATRA, Canada has been removed completely from the equation.

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All I know is that I really like RC ships and the cruise experience, BUT it took me months and months to get my refund, and every day I saw angry posts from people cursing out RC and swearing they would never sail with them again.

Now all this back and forth about vaccines, when it seems really they are just pandering to the egoist Florida governor, and welcoming all to come aboard and spread disease freely.  I cannot afford the time to quarantine and I do not want my vacation to get "messed up."

And so, I am booked on Viking out of Bermuda for the end of this month--no children allowed, all must be vaccinated and tested.  

For 2022 I have already booked two other cruises--neither of them RC yet.  

For me, safety is paramount as we return to the seas.

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