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Royal Caribbean opts into CDC highly vax program


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Going to be interesting how many lines are willing to adopt a "Vaccination Standard of Excellence" if they opt in to the program.

Not Highly Vaccinated: ships with less than 95% passengers and 95% crew who are fully vaccinated.
Highly Vaccinated: ships with at least 95% passengers and 95% crew who are fully vaccinated, but with less than 95% of passengers and 95% of crew who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.
Vaccination Standard of Excellence: ships with at least 95% passengers and 95% crew who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines.

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I just did a quick review of the protocols at the link. From memory, this is simply a rewrite of the latest iteration of the CSO. As I mentioned previously, the biggest drawback with the protocols is the administration of them and the associated reporting. Other than that, these are good SARS2/COVID mitigation protocols that the cruse lines have pretty much been following since the CDC got stoned by the Federal 3rd District Court in FL and did make some technical (not substantive) changes (the last iteration).

Proofs in the pudding. They have worked remarkably well in enabling what for all intent in purpose is a zero COVID policy - or very close to it - aboard each cruise ship adopting them.

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The 2 blaring things I see screaming out in there are 

 

For cruise ship operators opting into CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, CDC will continue to exercise enforcement discretion regarding the requirements of its January 29, 2021, Mask Order, applicable to operators of, and crew and passengers on board, cruise ships.

and 

 

 

“UP TO DATE” meaning you have to be BOOSTED as many times and the CDC decides they want you to be boosted to be “up to date”

 

If Royal goes along with this, I’ll probably be done cruising until everything goes back to the Pre-Covid experience!  I’ve had 3 Pfizer shots and had covid …… I’m done with the vaccine FOREVER and will never take another shot!  I’m also done booking trips that require masks in vaccinated areas  …… if that comes back again, I’m done as well!

 

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9 minutes ago, CGTLH said:

Going to be interesting how many lines are willing to adopt a "Vaccination Standard of Excellence" if they opt in to the program.

HHS is following a stick and carrot approach here. The color coding system now in full use by the CDC will color ships not participating in the voluntary program gray. That's the same sort of thing as gaining "vaccination standard of excellence." Ships participating could be frowned upon or avoided by the public that still harbors high levels of COVID fear. 

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6 minutes ago, ChrisK2793 said:

The 2 blaring things I see screaming out in there are 

For cruise ship operators opting into CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, CDC will continue to exercise enforcement discretion regarding the requirements of its January 29, 2021, Mask Order, applicable to operators of, and crew and passengers on board, cruise ships.

and 

 

 

“UP TO DATE” meaning you have to be BOOSTED as many times and the CDC decides they want you to be boosted to be “up to date”

 

If Royal goes along with this, I’ll probably be done cruising until everything goes back to the Pre-Covid experience!  I’ve had 3 Pfizer shots and had covid …… I’m done with the vaccine FOREVER and will never take another shot!

 

I saw those items too. Many will choose NOT to sail with those protocols in place. Again, it will be interesting to see what the lines decide to do. As of today only 42.5% of those eligible to receive boosters have received them. 

 https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/pharmacy/states-ranked-by-booster-rates.html

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5 minutes ago, Jill said:

So I guess NCL will not be participating since they dropped masks all together? I think it’s time the industry gives the CDC the middle finger. CLIA had a pretty scathing response to the CDC again issuing warnings not to cruise. 

NCL can drop masks and stay in compliance as long as they meet the terms of "Vaccination Standard of Excellence".

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The language in the CDC's most recent update to COVID vaccination status is critical in understanding it. The CDC has not included boosters as a requirement to be considered fully vaccinated. Walenski, when recently asked about this, said we're pivoting away from the term requirements to being up to date with vaccines in hopes of encouraging more people to get boosted. There is disagreement among policy makers about how both government and private organizations will interpret the new guidance.

In either case, the CDC, hopefully having learned it's lessons, won't be defining what constitutes a minimum vaccine requirement for the cruise lines. I believe the lines feel they have adequate layering of SARS2 mitigation measures, including the current vaccination and testing requirements, without resorting to a requirement for boosting. 

https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2022-01-21/cdc-stands-by-up-to-date-vaccine-language-shift-as-new-data-shows-importance-of-covid-19-booster-shots

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12 minutes ago, CGTLH said:

NCL can drop masks and stay in compliance as long as they meet the terms of "Vaccination Standard of Excellence".

I am not too sure about that. From text: 

Cruise lines choosing to opt into this program will be required to follow all recommendations and guidance as a condition of their participation in the program (i.e., they will not be able to pick and choose which recommendations they follow). Those opting in will continue to receive a color status for cruise ships operating in U.S. waters on CDC’s Cruise Ship Color Status webpage.

For cruise ship operators opting into CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, CDC will continue to exercise enforcement discretion regarding the requirements of its January 29, 2021, Mask Order, applicable to operators of, and crew and passengers on board, cruise ships.

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10 minutes ago, JeffB said:

The language in the CDC's most recent update to COVID vaccination status is critical in understanding it. The CDC has not included boosters as a requirement to be considered fully vaccinated. Walenski, when recently asked about this, said we're pivoting away from the term requirements to being up to date with vaccines in hopes of encouraging more people to get boosted. There is disagreement among policy makers about how both government and private organizations will interpret the new guidance.

In either case, the CDC, hopefully having learned it's lessons, won't be defining what constitutes a minimum vaccine requirement for the cruise lines. I believe the lines feel they have adequate layering of SARS2 mitigation measures, including the current vaccination and testing requirements, without resorting to a requirement for boosting. 

https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2022-01-21/cdc-stands-by-up-to-date-vaccine-language-shift-as-new-data-shows-importance-of-covid-19-booster-shots

From the text: 

6] Up to date with COVID-19 vaccines means a person has received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose(s) when eligible. For more information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/stay-up-to-date.html.

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6 minutes ago, HBCcruiser said:

I am not too sure about that. From text: 

Cruise lines choosing to opt into this program will be required to follow all recommendations and guidance as a condition of their participation in the program (i.e., they will not be able to pick and choose which recommendations they follow). Those opting in will continue to receive a color status for cruise ships operating in U.S. waters on CDC’s Cruise Ship Color Status webpage.

For cruise ship operators opting into CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, CDC will continue to exercise enforcement discretion regarding the requirements of its January 29, 2021, Mask Order, applicable to operators of, and crew and passengers on board, cruise ships.

Read the operations manual: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/covid19-operations-manual-cso.html#mask-use

The mask policy being referred to is the one for public conveyances. This is the reason why you're required to wear one on a plane.

In the operations manual for ships. Being fully vaccinated gave an out to requiring full time use, except when drinking or eating. At the time 95% fully vaccinated passenger and crew allowed no masks at all.

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I get that HBCcruiser. I look at it this way. If I'm in marketing and I have input as to what health and safety protocols the line I'm working for might change if they elect to fully participate, and I think most lines will, is that they will continue to advertise that guests and crew are "fully vaccinated." The hair-splitting non-sense of being "up to date" that the CDC has now interjected into the decision making process of health and safety protocol policy makers is typical of the fence straddling on so many COVID issues they've taken that produce nothing more than confusion (see the idiotic masking stuff referenced above ..... laughable) 

The public is not going to look up and then know the difference in vaccination status between fully vaccinated and up to date when selecting a cruise line or ship to sail on. IMO, boosters will remain optional for guests, probably not for crew who are already getting them. We're slowly making our way to reasonableness in COVID policy. No more mandates. GIve people the data, guide them on how to assess individual risk and behave accordingly. In this case, given the current requirement for guests to be "fully vaccinated," some higher COVID risk guests may want boosters. Fine, that's a personal decision based on a personal risk assessment.  

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13 minutes ago, CGTLH said:

Read the operations manual: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/covid19-operations-manual-cso.html#mask-use

The mask policy being referred to is the one for public conveyances. This is the reason why you're required to wear one on a plane.

In the operations manual for ships. Being fully vaccinated gave an out to requiring full time use, except when drinking or eating. At the time 95% fully vaccinated passenger and crew allowed no masks at all.

The CDC has basically changed the definition of what cruise lines currently consider to be "vaccinated". Passengers will need to be "Up-to-Date" with their vaccines, which means Boosters+++ as the CDC determines. This is where the masking changes occur. 

 

Mask Use

At this time, all persons, including port personnel, crew, and passengers are advised that CDC’s Mask Order remains in effect and requires the wearing of well-fitting masks on conveyances entering, traveling within, or leaving the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs. (see Maritime-specific Frequently Asked Questions).

  • While the Order permits temporarily removing a mask for brief periods of time while eating or drinking, removal of the mask for extended meal service or beverage consumption would constitute a violation of this Order.
  • Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise all passengers and crew that they do not have to wear a well-fitting mask if outdoors. CDC still recommends that people wear a mask if they are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines and in crowded outdoor areas.
  • Masks do not have to be worn while inside one’s own cabin.
  • Travelers should not wear a mask when doing activities that may get the mask wet, like swimming at the beach or in recreational water facilities. A wet mask can make it difficult to breathe and may not work as well when wet. This means it is particularly important for bathers who are not fully vaccinated to maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet (2 meters) when in the water with others who are not traveling companions or part of the same family.
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30 minutes ago, HBCcruiser said:

The CDC has basically changed the definition of what cruise lines currently consider to be "vaccinated". Passengers will need to be "Up-to-Date" with their vaccines, which means Boosters+++ as the CDC determines. This is where the masking changes occur. 

Exactly, "up to date" is also how the CDC defines a ship as meeting the "Vaccination Standard of Excellence" requirement.

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38 minutes ago, JeffB said:

I get that HBCcruiser. I look at it this way. If I'm in marketing and I have input as to what health and safety protocols the line I'm working for might change if they elect to fully participate, and I think most lines will, is that they will continue to advertise that guests and crew are "fully vaccinated." The hair-splitting non-sense of being "up to date" that the CDC has now interjected into the decision making process of health and safety protocol policy makers is typical of the fence straddling on so many COVID issues they've taken that produce nothing more than confusion (see the idiotic masking stuff referenced above ..... laughable) 

The public is not going to look up and then know the difference in vaccination status between fully vaccinated and up to date when selecting a cruise line or ship to sail on. IMO, boosters will remain optional for guests, probably not for crew who are already getting them. We're slowly making our way to reasonableness in COVID policy. No more mandates. GIve people the data, guide them on how to assess individual risk and behave accordingly. In this case, given the current requirement for guests to be "fully vaccinated," some higher COVID risk guests may want boosters. Fine, that's a personal decision based on a personal risk assessment.  


The CDC has already said for a while now that “fully vaccinated and “up to date” are ARE NOT the same to the CDC  ……  quite a while ago the CDC declared that THEIR definition of “up to date” means “fully boosted” …… so there’s no leeway there at all for “marketing” interpretation.

 

 

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I would really like to see some hybrid approach where a cruise line decides to have some of their ships opt out of the guidelines. Let the ships go ‘gray’ on the CDC website. Then they can advertise what specific protocols they have decided to adopt and which ones they will relax…such as allowing the consumer to decide if they mask or not. Or maybe even allowing a limited amount of unvaccinated or previous-infected passengers. I wonder how those particular ships would fare? How many people would book based on the relaxed protocols? Maybe they can call it the ‘You’ve Heard All the Arguments, So Make Your Own Decision’ cruising. I’m thinking they would be pretty popular cruises…but, they would be a direct threat to the CDC which would probably find some other way to target them. But I wish they would try anyway.

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46 minutes ago, Debstr66 said:

Ugh!!! This blows out the Vaccinated Only venues not requiring a mask.. 🤬

image.thumb.png.2163afbfded8158699888c41f63e361f.png

 

It just moves to bar to "up to date" vaccinated.

Cruise ship operators choosing to opt into CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships, at their discretion, may designate areas as only accessible to passengers and crew who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines where masks are not required (e.g., casinos; bars; spas; entertainment venues; and dining areas, including self-serve buffets).

 

Added: I'm also under the impression they'd have to opt-in to the "extended CSO" as well.

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CGTLA, ChrisK2793 & HBCcruiser, I think there's an out here for the lines. Namely the approach I mentioned above. Lines simply won't advertise they are NOT at a "vaccination standard of excellence." They will continue to advertise, as they have been doing for a year now, our guests and crew are fully vaccinated. I agree the CDC sees these two definitions as different. I don't think that matters to the cruise lines. They can be in voluntary compliance even though they may choose not to try to achieve this excellence status BS. It's unnecessary hair-splitting to me and probably to consumers. The lines feel they have achieved an adequate level of COVID mitigation with their current polices and as I also said, proof's in the pudding. They work.

Another key issue here is the dwindling prevalence of Omicron, while nothing is guaranteed with respect to this variant, future surges of it or the emergence of other variants, the research community is in almost universal agreement that we can't boost our way out of this. The future of vaccines involves the development of one that covers a wide rage of coronaviurses - won't prevent infection but will keep people who get infected from becoming seriously ill or dying at higher rates than for other diseases like influenza.

As usual, the CDC is behind on this or, more likely, knows it but for whatever reasons won't provide recommendations based on it. Same old shit. The CDC is NOT an agile agency. The cruise industry and their H&S Panels are.

I feel confident that this announcement of the voluntary program will not alter the cruise line's plans and how they approach and implement H&S policies. I think we will see the dropping of indoor mask requirements on the 15th. Sort of a sign that the lines are moving along in dealing with the pandemic faster than the CDC is.

Re Debstr66's post ......the CDC's authority via the CSO to direct cruise ships to implement indoor masking requirements have been in question since the Federal District Court in FL temporarily enjoined it. Subsequently, HHS and the CDC appealed to USSC and then withdrew the appeal leaving it permanently enjoined. It is generally believed that the CSO and by extension, its masking requirements are unenforceable for ships sailing from both FL and other US ports. I also believe the USCG has said it will not enforce either outdoor or indoor masking requirements. 

The recent addition of masking requirements indoors and on board some cruise ships was a cruise line initiated protocol. It was based on the increased infectiousness of Omicron, the increasing numbers of COVID cases emerging on cruise ships and is now being rescinded as of 01/15/22 as those numbers decrease to near zero. Masking decisions are within the H&S policy domain of the cruise lines. That was a concession made by the CDC not too long ago.  As well, all this if's ands and buts that stratify mask wearing requirements indoors are a product of cruise lines electing to re-start revenue sailings using the CDC's protocols for restarting either above or below 95% vaccination rates. Lines that went operational with 95% or greater vax rates don't have any of that confusing stratification stuff.

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My husband booked our first back to back cruise. 8 day Bahamas, followed by 11 days Transatlantic. We had done 3 cruises in the last 3 months. I can't stand the face mask. If Royal requires the booster, we will cancel everything! I rather to lose the deposit money. Enough is enough with this protocols after almost 2 years. I sadly will say goodbye to cruising.

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Some of those new rules are no less ridiculous than the ones from the original CSO. Cruise lines cannot get back to full ships if they opt into the new CSO.

If you're a close contact on a ship how long you quarantine isn't dictated by science, but by whether or not there are 95%+ boosted on that cruise.  I'd doubt you'll see too many 95% boosted cruises. If any.

Specifically, if you're a close contact and there are less than 95% boosted on your cruise (even if you are) you have to quarantine 10 days (if the cruise lasts that long).  If there are 95% boosted, you only have to quarantine 5 days.  That's just downright stupid and doesn't make any medical sense with the current state of vaccines.

If you are symptomatic and seek out testing, only if the ship is 95% boosted can the cruise line give you a antigen test. Otherwise it has to be a PCR test.

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24 minutes ago, smokeybandit said:

Some of those new rules are no less ridiculous than the ones from the original CSO. Cruise lines cannot get back to full ships if they opt into the new CSO.

Yep ...... I'm getting the feeling that after the CDC got told to pound sand with their CSO, they're trying to weasel their way back in to running them where maritime health protocols are involved. We know that the reality here is that cruise ships, when it comes to COVID, have proven to be the safest congregate setting on the planet. There is no need for additional regulatory schemes of any type regarding COVID. 

Because the CDC's authority to dictate health and safety protocols has been found to have no basis in the law, the lines would be completely within their rights to say, no thanks to CDC's overtures to voluntarily comply with this new CSO they just issued.

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I certainly hope Royal and no other cruise line opts into this mess.  Right now the CDC is nothing more than a political tool, that has lied to the American people from the very beginning under the guise of following the science and data.  I’m fully vaccinated but at this point I’m DONE, they promised we would get our lives back once a majority of the population was vaccinated right now according to the Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins over 76% of all American’s have received at least 1 dose this includes the J&J vaccine and over 64% of American have received 2 dose vaccine which is either Pfizer or Moderna.  Remember when Fauci and the CDC said the benchmark was between 60-70% vaccination rate of at least 1 dose would be considered herd immunity and once we reached herd immunity we could get back to normal. What a crock of **** that turned out to be and now they are pushing boosters, for heaven sakes where does it end? 

Cruise lines have been held to an unfair higher standard than any other form of vacation travel or vacation experience in this country and here we have the CDC at it once again. I hope the cruise lines tell the CDC to take their program and shove it some place I rather not say because they (the cruise lines) know what it takes to keep their passengers safe while onboard their ships and in ports of call.  It is hilariously frustrating to see the CDC continue to come after cruise lines when the total number of positive cases on cruise ships is less than 1% when compared to the total number of cases on land within the US. And as far as it has been reported there have been no reports of serious illness, hospitalization and no deaths related to COVID on cruise ships here in the US since the resumption of cruising. 

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3 hours ago, CGTLH said:

Read the operations manual: https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/covid19-operations-manual-cso.html#mask-use

The mask policy being referred to is the one for public conveyances. This is the reason why you're required to wear one on a plane.

In the operations manual for ships. Being fully vaccinated gave an out to requiring full time use, except when drinking or eating. At the time 95% fully vaccinated passenger and crew allowed no masks at all.

Exactly, and NCL has no problem meeting the vaccinated threshold with their current policies.

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14 minutes ago, smokeybandit said:

But will they be able to meet the boosted threshold? The new CSO basically treats the unboosted as unvaccinated.

EXACTLY! I am not boosted and have no intention to do so at this time. Again, if these data are correct https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/pharmacy/states-ranked-by-booster-rates.html and only 42.5% of those that qualify to get Boosters have done so, won't they be loosing some customers? 

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39 minutes ago, AspiringCruisePlanner said:

Did NCL opt in already?  On the dashboard it shows their ships as opting into the program:

https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/cruise-ship-color-status.html

image.png.6fa0b72086c957b8b294a131fd3bb722.png

 

Yes, it appears so... If you add NCL's other two lines, it totals the 20 total ships that have opted in...so it appears they are the first and only so far.

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Welp, I didn’t read the thing, but since the CDC put it together I have some idea what it says.  Was hoping some common sense would come into play with summer and beyond, but if the CDC is calling the shots that won’t be the case.  If Royal intends to run this vaccine thing indefinitely, they should let people cash out their FCC’s that don’t want to sail under these protocols.

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13 hours ago, HBCcruiser said:

CDC came out with new opt-in regulations for cruise ships. It seems to me that opting in will be costly for cruise lines. Cruise lines that opt in MUST follow ALL of the guidelines. They cannot pick and choose. 

https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/management/technical-instructions-for-cruise-ships.html

Yeah......protocols tend to never go away & they all will opt-in; pre-covid cruising is done forever. <smh>

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