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Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Reflecting on getting covid on my Alaska cruise

In:
29 Jun 2022

Listen to the Show

As an addendum to last week's episode, here's a look at my experience with Covid and a look back at the experience.

You can read the timeline of events in this post https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/2022/06/13/what-happened-when-i-tested-positive-covid-royal-caribbean-cruise-ship

On this episode:
Running time:

Royal Caribbean CEO talks when pre-cruise Covid testing and vaccine mandate will last

In:
27 Jun 2022

How much longer will cruise ship passengers have to take a covid test before their sailing and be required to be vaccinated?

Michael Bayley

Those two questions are among the most frequently asked since cruising restarted in 2021, and it was asked of Royal Caribbean's top executive this weekend.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley took questions from cruise fans during a question and answer session while aboard Ovation of the Seas for the 2022 President's Cruise.

Here's what he had to say about both topics.

Pre-cruise testing

Woman taking covid test

There has been a little bit of conjecture tied to the cruise industry looking for pre-cruise testing to be reviewed as a requirement.

"I think pre cruise testing is going to be around for another couple of months," Mr. Bayley answered.

"We obviously want it to go back to normal, but we're incredibly cognizant of our responsibilities to keep our crew, the communities and our guests safe."

CDC headquarters

He talked about the long journey the cruise lines have had with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and how initially the CDC flat out refused to talk to them.

"And they were in many ways successful in working as we were working with them in creating the protocols that allowed the industry to return last July."

How successful have these health protocols been? 

Side of Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Mr. Bayley mentioned in a call with the CDC two weeks ago, the CDC shared an amazing statistic, "the cruise industry sailing out of the US ports over the past 12 months and how many people have been hospitalized with Covid and how many deaths occurred from Covid from people who'd sailed on the industry's ships, which is in the millions.

"And the number of people who died from COVID who'd sailed on ships over the past year was two."

"Two is terrible. But but but against the context of everything we've seen, that's it's truly been a remarkable success."

Vaccine requirements

So if pre-cruise testing is still "another couple of months" of away, when might the requirement for adults to be vaccinated against Covid-19 remain?

Mr. Bayley admitted it's still a big unknown, "The no vaccine question is is a huge question that none of us know the answer to."

"I'm skeptical that's going to change in the in the real short term. Many and most of the destinations that we visit require a high degree of vaccination, and they expect our crew to be vaccinated."

"So many of the destinations in the Caribbean simply don't have the kind of medical facilities and care that we've got back in the States. So they genuinely are very vulnerable. And so they're obviously very concerned."

Many unvaccinated people point out how Covid cases still pop up on the ship, and Mr. Bayley talked about that, "I understand if you're vaccinated, you can be Covid positive and all that kind of stuff. But it's the societal response to this and it's and governments have responded to it."

"We're constantly talking to different destinations. And I would say this is one of the areas where they're pretty fixed on it."

"Who knows how it's going to change as we move through the months."

 

Royal Caribbean extends European cruise ship Covid protocols through July 2022

In:
25 Jun 2022

Royal Caribbean announced that the cruise line has extended its health protocols for European departures.

Health protocols have been extended for European sailings that depart on or before July 31, 2022. Travel advisors and passengers were notified of the update this week. 

The existing protocols have been extended without any notable changes to vaccine, testing and onboard health requirements.

Vaccine Requirements

Marseilles

Royal Caribbean requires all guests 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Guests must provide proof of vaccination with the final dose being administered no later than 14 days before sailing. 

Guests must have received their most recent vaccine dose no more than 9 months (270 days) ago. This includes either a booster dose or the final dose of the original vaccine series (or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson).

For clarification purposes, Royal Caribbean states that guests who have received a booster vaccine dose will qualify as up to date regardless of the amount of time that has passed since the dose was administered. 

Covid vaccines

Vaccines must be on the list of EMA-approved vaccines, which include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Nuvaxovid.

Children age 11 years old and under do not require Covid-19 vaccinations to cruise. Those aged 5 to 11 can choose to provide vaccination proof to be considered up to date for their sailing and follow health protocols of up to date guests. Children who have received only one dose of a vaccine will not qualify as fully vaccinated (unless they received Johnson & Johnson). 

The health protocols also encourage guests to be “up to date” on their Covid-19 vaccination per the European Medicines Agency (EMA). 

Stockholm

Of note, for sailings departing from Stockholm, the age requirement states that all guests 18 years and older are required to be fully vaccinated. 

Testing Requirements

Covid-19 antigen test

All guests are required to present a negative Covid-19 test prior to boarding European departures. 

  • Fully vaccinated guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test no more than 2 days prior to boarding
  • Unvaccinated guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test no more than 1 day prior to boarding. 

Royal Caribbean continues to recommend that guests traveling from the United States take advantage of eMed antigen testing kits that provide supervised virtual video visits and can be accessed 24/7. 

Notably, guests traveling back to the United States are no longer required to present a negative Covid-19 test prior to flight departures. 

Depending on the departure port, testing requirements can vary slightly, so it's best to confirm country-specific policies before sailing. 

Onboard Testing

Allure of the Seas

Royal Caribbean requires that unvaccinated guests (by EMA standards) or those not up-to-date with their vaccines will require additional testing during European sailings.

  • Onboard testing will be at the expense of guests if they are 12 years or older and considered to be unvaccinated or not up-to-date. Tests are $55 USD each
  • For unvaccinated guests age 6-11 years old who require testing, onboard testing will be complimentary
  • Guests who are 2 years and younger will not require any testing
  • Guests will receive registration information once onboard. Guests 12 years or older (6 years and older for Italian ports) will have additional requirements during the cruise. Additionally, these guests might be required to test prior to disembarking depending on country requirements

Masks

Mask guidance march 2022

Royal Caribbean states that masks for fully vaccinated guests are optional onboard. The cruise line continues to recommend masks for unvaccinated children while onboard.

Guests under 2 years old will not be required to wear a mask at any time. 

In terminals, masks are optional unless required by the country’s local policies and regulations. 

Some destination ports might have masking requirements in place, which will need to be followed by guests. 

Policies remain subject to change. 

Cruise industry wants to review pre-cruise testing requirements next

In:
14 Jun 2022

The same day the United States announced an end to needing a negative Covid test to enter the country, the cruise industry said it wants to next move to looking at pre-cruise testing requirements.

Woman taking covid test

Ever since cruise ships restarted sailing in late 2020 and early 2021, a pre-cruise covid test has been required.

While the specific requirements vary depending on where the ship sails from, in general, a negative covid test is required up to 2 or 3 days before the cruise for anyone that wishes to sail.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a statement on Friday in support of the U.S. lifting testing requirement for travelers arriving by air to the USA.

At the end of the statement, CLIA mentioned a next step of looking at pre-cruise testing.

"As the CDC monitors the improving health landscape and works with airlines to support a smooth transition with the lifting of the pre-arrival testing requirement, we believe a review of pre-embarkation testing requirements for cruise travelers is also in order."

Symphony of the Seas in PortMiami aerial

Just like the testing for international air travelers, CLIA points to the economic impact opening up cruises without a pre-cruise test.

There was no mention of changing vaccine requirements in the statement.

Pre-cruise anxiety

Cruise ship docked in Miami

The problem with having to take a covid test just a few days before a cruise is it inserts an x-factor into vacation plans of will they or will they not be able to go.

For many cruisers, a positive result just before the start of their vacation could ruin their plans.

Besides that, no other form of leisure travel subjects their customers to a covid test as a requirement for entry. This includes casinos, hotels, theme parks, or zoos.

Then there's the issue of actually getting a test done in time. Vaccinated guests can choose to do a proctored at-home test, but these tests cost extra. Tests at pharmacies are often free, but getting an appointment can be daunting.

In short, pre-cruise testing adds stress to planning and getting excited for a cruise because of the fear of a positive test derailing plans.

Reviewing health protocols

Physical Distancing sign

Royal Caribbean recently added new questions to its post-cruise survey that ask people who just took a cruise on their thoughts on the amount of health protocols.

Post-cruise surveys are one of the most important metrics Royal Caribbean uses in measuring customer feedback. These are comments from people that actually paid and went on vacation, rather than comments from people who may or may not actually cruise.

The addition of these questions seems to hint at the company wanting to know what its customers think about the current set of protocols.

Questions include if there were enough or too many health protocols on the cruise, what impact (if any) did the health protocols in place have on the cruise experience, and if the same health protocols were in place again for the next cruise, would they cruise again?

Some want testing to remain

There are still a lot of cruisers who want pre-cruise testing to remain as a way to prevent someone who has Covid from boarding their ship.

Melissa Chapa wrote on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog Facebook page, "Only reason I cruised is because of testing."

Jason Lutes added, "These tests have kept some cases off the ship. If they do away with pre-cruise testing, quarantine time while cruising might go up."

Randie Williams shared a story about how pre-cruise testing helped, "For my last cruise my husband tested covid positive 2 days prior to leaving. He was asymptomatic. We would have never known he had covid and could have passed it on to many passengers if we were allowed to board without a test."

What happened when I tested positive for Covid on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship

In:
13 Jun 2022

There is a risk of catching Covid-19 everywhere in life, including on cruise ships. Unfortunately, I tested positive for Covid on the last day of my cruise, and I wanted to share my experience for what to you can reasonably expect.

Wake

I was sailing on a 7-night Alaska cruise from Vancouver, Canada.

Anecdotally, it seems far more people are worried about what your life is like onboard after testing positive in terms of your treatment onboard, rather than the effects of the virus.

Keep in mind my experience may vary from your experience, as regulations are changing all the time.

Ocean view from my cabin

I certainly had read plenty of other people's experiences on various cruise lines to have a ballpark idea of what to expect, but after going through it myself, here's the important takeaways.

Feeling sick

Bedroom

Before anything else, you will likely start feeling the effects of Covid. I'm sure most people start off in denial of what it could be. I certainly did.

My first symptom was a sore throat on the second-to-last day, but I had gotten up super early for the glacier viewing and stood outside for hours to watch it all, so I chalked it up to overdoing it. My energy levels were good and I had no temperature or any other symptoms.

As the evening came, I found myself getting quite tired and again, assumed it was a result of many days of touring Alaska.

That night, things got much worse and my fever rose along with an even worse sore throat. By the time dawn broke, I couldn't take it anymore and found a home covid test I brought onboard. Sure enough, it came up positive.

At this point, I felt miserable and called medical to inform them of my symptoms and positive test.

Medical evaluation

The next thing that happens is the medical team came up to our cabin and tested everyone.  

The ship's doctor and nurse arrived to give us a quick antigen test each, and dropped off DayQuil, lozenges, and Tylenol to deal with the symptoms I was experiencing.

The doctor listened to my breathing and then told us we'd have the results very soon, likely within the hour. He also mentioned all the treatment was complimentary.

Almost exactly an hour later, I got a call that I was positive, but my wife and kids were negative.

Quarantine

Bedroom

Probably the biggest concern about Covid on a cruise ship is being quarantined. It's no secret there are inside cabins on every ship designated for Covid patients.

I was able to stay in my stateroom for two reasons: it was the last day of the cruise and we had a two bedroom suite. 

The doctor explained that if I could quarantine myself in one of the bedrooms, I could remain there. That certainly seemed like a better idea than going elsewhere.

I was not to leave my cabin at all. My wife and kids could leave the cabin, but had to wear masks and were not allowed to eat in any restaurants.

Instead, we were allowed to order food from room service at no extra charge. After one or two orders, the room service rep started calling me to place orders before I could.

In terms of the food, it's the exact same room service menu as any other guest has access to. For dinner, we were able to order from the main dining room menu just to give us something different.

The room service food menu gets old quickly. Unlike the main dining room, there's no variations or new options. I could see how this could become frustrating if I had been in quarantine for a longer period.

You'll be provided with complimentary Voom and free phone service.

One thing that will stop is daily cleaning on your cabin.

Checking up

Once you test positive, expect a lot of phone calls to check on you.

I was impressed by the amount of crew members that called to check on me, and give me information.  I was concerned about not having access to all the questions about what happens next, but between the medical team and guest services, they ironed it all out.

The medical team called a number of times to check on how I felt, and were happy to provide more meds if I needed them.

Medical center

Guest services also called to coordinate plans (more on that next).  Also, both medical and guest services cross checked the other, asking me if the other had done certain things to ensure no balls were being dropped.

What to do after the cruise

Canada Place in Vancouver

Guest services provided me options for what I could do at the conclusion of the cruise.

Because we were in Canada, which has public health regulations requiring me to continue to isolate after the voyage ends, I was given three options:

First, I could disembark in Vancouver and quarantine in Canada for a minimum of 10 days (9 days since I had quarantined one day in my stateroom).

Second, I could disembark and take my rental car (that I had parked in Vancouver) and drive back to the U.S.

Third, stay onboard for the next sailing. This was a shock to me, but in the paperwork Royal Caribbean provided, it listed staying onboard as an option sometimes allowed if there's space for it.

I'd need to quarantine for 4 more days, and if I tested negative after that, I could get off the ship in port and resume normal cruise activities. 

My family would need to test every day, but they would be able to enjoy the ship if they tested negative.

It was tempting to stay onboard, but the fear someone else could test positive (since they had been exposed to me) made it seem too risky.

Later in the disembarkation process, I spoke with a couple that opted to quarantine onboard and they spent the entire cruise in quarantine because they continued to test positive. That made me feel much better about my decision not to stay onboard.

We chose the option of taking our rental car and driving back to Seattle to stay there Had I not had a rental car already parked in Vancouver, I likely would have been stuck in Canada, per the Canadian regulations.

I had to provide guest services with the address and my ArriveCAN number for departure. 

Compensation

The most impressive part of the lengths Royal Caribbean goes to support those that catch Covid during their sailing is the compensation package they provide.

Since I could not drive home to Florida, Royal Caribbean offered me a daily per diem if I quarantined in a hotel.

Specifically, it offers reimbursement, up to a limit of:

  • $250 USD per hotel room per night
  • $100 USD per person, per day in meal costs
  • Air change fees up to $400 USD per person
  • $150 USD per day for a rental car cost

In addition, all quarantined guests and their travelling party get a prorated refund of their cruise fare based on the time spent in quarantine and cruise time lost.  This refund will come back to the original form of payment.

In my opinion, this quite a generous offering, especially the financial support given after you've left the ship and are isolating in a hotel.

Disembarkation

Serenade docked in Canada

On the morning of disembarkation, we were instructed to wait in our cabins until all other guests were off the ship.

At 9am, crew members came to take my luggage. It would be brought down separate from other guests luggage.

At 9:45am, a crew member came to escort us out. It felt kind of surreal being back in the Centrum again. Again, I was happy to only have had one day of quarantine.

They escorted us to a conference room where eventually 10 other Covid positive guests joined us. This represented 11 out of 2,100 guests, or just 0.5% of the guests on our sailing.

We each had similar stories of "how it happened". Most appeared to be heading to a hotel in Vancouver that Royal Caribbean had arranged for.

We were taken off the ship and into a van to take us to our quarantine place. The bus dropped me off to pick up my rental car, which was parked nearby.

Must do's before your next cruise

Bring a few covid tests with you so you can test in your cabin before calling medical. From what I understand, you may still be temporarily quarantined if you call with covid-like symptoms but test negative.

Have some shows or movies downloaded on your mobile device to watch. Most streaming services you subscribe to allow you to download programming to watch offline (like on an airplane). There isn't much else to watch.

Netflix

Bring extra prescription medicine for a possible quarantine.

Bring a few over-the-counter flu medications with you. My wife packed Ibuprofen and some Halls, but I wish I had daytime and night time DayQuil or even Mucinex to deal with my sore throat.

Conclusion

I was probably different from most that run into this situation, because I knew a lot about what cruise lines were doing with people that tested positive for Covid. I was looking to see how much truth there was to any of the subjective comments people had made in their experiences.

Yes, the room service menu gets tiresome and if I had to eat it for 3, 4 or more days, I probably would have really hated it. But I never got food that was cold. Luke warm, perhaps. But no different than how some food comes very hot or not so hot when in a dining room.

I freely admit I was lucky to only have to quarantine for 1 day onboard. The television programming is limited, and there were no pay-per-view movies on Serenade of the Seas.  Moreover, their slow internet made streaming anything pretty much impossible (although YouTube worked fairly well, since it could buffer better than other services I tried).

 

I thought the support from medical and guest services was exemplary. I was encouraged to call with any questions. So when I wasn't sure about mixing meds, I called the medical center and got a hold of the doctor almost immediately. My primary physician at home isn't that accessible.

Besides "how bad is quarantine", my other concern was communication because I had read some people lamenting gaps in time before knowing what was going to happen next. 

I started my ordeal around 7am. By lunch, I had a good idea of what the game plan was, and by 4pm I was clear on disembarkation and what to do after that.

I knew when I booked this cruise, and every other cruise I've taken since June 2021 that there's a risk of getting Covid. I was fortunate not to have run into this until now, but I can say it was handled well.

It would have been a heck of a lot easier if this had happened on a cruise from Florida, as I'd much rather quarantine in my own home. But the generous compensation package helps a lot.

I'm not not sure what sort of compensation options there are if the cruise had ended in the USA, which likely has different requirements than than of Canada.

I hope this article serves as an overview of what could happen and what to expect. 

U.S. to end Covid-19 testing for incoming air travelers

In:
10 Jun 2022

Great news for travelers flying home to the U.S. after a cruise, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will no longer require travelers entering the U.S. to provide a negative Covid-19 pre-departure test.

An official announcement will come from President Bident later today, a welcome change for the travel industry and travelers alike.

The new policy will come into effect Sunday at 12:01 a.m. after heavy lobbying from airlines and the travel industry.

Despite these changes, Royal Caribbean still requires pre-cruise testing for its sailings worldwide, along with vaccination requirements.

Current Covid-19 testing

Woman taking covid test

Since January 2021, travelers returning to the United States from international destinations must complete a pre-departure Covid-19 test for their flights. A major inconvenience for cruisers traveling back home after cruises abroad, who have already tested before their cruise.

Currently, airline passengers must present negative Covid–19 results, using common tests such as rapid antigen or PCR. Specifically, the test needs to be completed no more than 1 day before the first scheduled departure time in the flight itinerary, applying to all travelers, including U.S. citizens, residents, and transit travelers.

This is another headache for many travelers, and especially cruisers disembarking abroad, who have to find a testing site, out of the country that meets the tight 1 day testing timeline.

Stress for cruisers

For cruisers traveling for the popular summer season in Europe, this means more money, and in some cases, more stress.

Initially, Royal Caribbean provided its guests with onboard testing to assist in meeting requirements to return home after their cruise; however, they discontinued the process, leaving guests to find their own solutions in unfamiliar cities.

While many airports provide pre-flight testing, recently, European cruisers reported issues with booking timely testing. In May, popular ports like Barcelona, Spain, had long lineups for airport testing, with some cruisers reporting that they were unable to book or get same day testing, forcing them to spend an extra day.

Tampa airport

Ongoing flight cancellations and airline delays have further aggravated the situation for passengers, leaving them scrambling to find new testing solutions with last minute changes.

This not only affects European cruises but other cruises, such as those to Alaska. A number of cruises home port in cities such as Vancouver, Canada, requiring cruisers to test before flights back to the U.S.

Additional cost

The cost of pre-cruise and return testing adds up. In Barcelona, a major hub for European cruises, antigen tests can cost in excess of $40 per person. Some opt for online proctored tests, but this requires reliable internet access, which is another expense on a cruise.

In addition to cost, many cruisers have expressed concerns about what to do if they test positive in a foreign country. Looking for the right insurance, including Covid-19 coverage, is one more thing that cruisers need to consider in their planning.

Complicating this are ever changing protocols that vary by country. From the time you book a cruise, to sail, policies may change significantly.

Pre-Cruise testing

Today's announcement is welcome by many, but for now, Royal Caribbean continues to require pre-cruise testing for all its cruises, with specific protocols varying by region and country. As noted on the cruise line’s Healthy Sail Center website:

 

"All l guests 2 and up take a COVID-19 test before sailing. All crew are tested regularly per CDC guidelines."

For cruisers leaving from destinations such as Barcelona, the criteria specifies:

  • Vaccinated guests who are up to date (with vaccines) must show a negative result for a PCR or an antigen test taken no more than 2 days before boarding day. Vaccinated guests who are not up to date will have a 1 day window to take this test. Kids age 5 to 11 who have been vaccinated may present proof of full vaccination and follow the testing protocols for vaccinated guests.
  • Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 1 day before boarding day.
  • Guests under 2 years of age do not need to complete a pre-cruise test.

An important condition for many countries in Europe, the most recent vaccine dose can be no more than 9 months (270 days) ago. Royal Caribbean continues to require all guests age 12 and up are fully vaccinated. Booster doses, though not required, are strongly recommended once you are eligible.

Specific telehealth options continue to be accepted but must be completed with a supervised virtual video visit, and all tests are at the guests’ expense. Royal Caribbean sells eMed Tests Kits and allows Canada’s Switch Health online tests.

 

Royal Caribbean extends North America and European cruise protocols

In:
20 May 2022

Royal Caribbean has extended its health protocols for both North America and European departures. 

Symphony of the Seas in PortMiami aerial

North America protocols will be extended for sailings departing on or before September 30, 2022. In addition, European protocols have been extended for departures through June 30, 2022.

The only notable adjustment to the previous health & safety requirements includes terminal testing updates for departures from Italy, with the full details provided below. 

The remainder of the protocols remain unchanged and are simply extended beyond a broader sailing window.  

Empty Pool chairs

An update was sent to guests booked on cruises, as well as travel advisors, with the changes.

You can review every protocol depending on where you are sailing from on Royal Caribbean's website.

Protocols for sailings from Florida

Vaccines

All Royal Caribbean guests age 12 and older must present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with the final dose administered at least 14 days before sailing.

Children age 11 and under do not require COVID-19 vaccination to cruise. However, kids age 5 to 11 who have been vaccinated may present proof of full vaccination and follow the protocols for vaccinated guests. 

Royal Caribbean will not accept a Certificate of Recovery in lieu of a vaccination record card for guests of vaccine eligible age.

All crew onboard the ship and at our private destinations are fully vaccinated and receive a booster dose as they become eligible.

Testing

Woman taking covid test

Before arriving on boarding day, you’ll need to take a COVID-19 test on your own, at your own expense, to meet boarding requirements in line with U.S. CDC guidance.

  • Vaccinated guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 2 days before boarding day. Kids age 5 to 11 who have been vaccinated may present proof of full vaccination and follow the testing protocols for vaccinated guests.
  • Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 must show a negative test result for a PCR test (not antigen) taken no more than 3 days before boarding day.
  • Unvaccinated kids' pre-cruise test cannot be taken on boarding day, because that may affect the sample taken during the kids' test at the terminal.
  • Guests under 2 years of age do not need to complete a pre-cruise test.

For guests sailing to Bermuda, additional travel and testing requirements may apply to your sailing.

In addition to the pre-cruise test, unvaccinated kids will take one or two more tests, depending on the length of the cruise. Royal Caribbean's test provider will administer these, at no cost to our guests.

At the Terminal
For all cruises, unvaccinated kids will take a complimentary test when checking in at the terminal. Registration details will be sent via email in advance.

Prior to Disembarking
For cruises that are 5 nights or longer, unvaccinated kids will take a complimentary antigen test onboard before the cruise ends. Guests will be notified onboard about how to register for this test.

Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested.

Sailings longer than 10 nights may have additional onboard testing requirements.

Masks

Allure of the Seas

Masks are optional for vaccinated guests and recommended for unvaccinated children while onboard. 

In cruise terminals, masks are optional unless required by local regulation. Some destinations we visit may require masks.

Guests under 2 years old don’t need to wear a mask. These protocols remain subject to change.

Dining

In the Main Dining Room, vaccinated guests may dine with other vaccinated guests outside their travel party. Parties that include unvaccinated kids will be assigned a table of their own.

We recommend that you make dining reservations via Cruise Planner before your cruise or using the Royal Caribbean app onboard.

Tables and chairs in all dining areas are sanitized frequently.

Ports of call

Guests can visit most ports of call freely, regardless of vaccination status.

A couple of ports currently require guests to book a shore excursion to go ashore. These tours are available at a variety of price points and may be purchased in advance on Cruise Planner or once onboard using the Royal Caribbean App.

Protocols for cruises from Italy

Vaccines

Guests 12 years and older must present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination with the final dose administered at least 14 days before sailing.

Guests under 12 years who are vaccinated can present proof of vaccination and follow the vaccinated protocols.

Additionally, to be considered up-to-date, guests must have received all doses in their vaccine series and have received their booster if the second vaccine was administered over 270 days (9 months) ago.

The vaccine must be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Guests who are vaccinated with WHO approved vaccines, not approved by the EMA, will be considered unvaccinated for the purpose of our sailings departing from Italy.

Testing

Covid test

Pre-Cruise

  • Guests who are fully vaccinated must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 2 days before boarding day.
  • Guests who are considered unvaccinated must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 1 day before boarding day.
  • Kids under 12 years who have been vaccinated may present proof of full vaccination and follow the testing protocols for vaccinated guests.

Embark

There will no longer be testing requirements in the terminal for Italian departures. 

Onboard Testing

  • Guests who are considered unvaccinated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or who are not up-to-date with their vaccines will require additional testing during our sailings.
  • Onboard testing will be at the guest's expense if they 12 years and older and considered unvaccinated or if they are not up-to-date at the price of $55 USD per test.
  • Onboard testing will be complimentary for any unvaccinated guests ages 6 – 11 years who require testing.
  • These guests will receive registration information once onboard based on the below.
    • During the Cruise: Depending on our itinerary, guests 12 years and older — or 6 years and older in Italian ports — will have additional testing requirements.
    • Prior to Disembarking: Guests 6 and older who meet the above criteria may be required to test before disembarking.

Guests under 2 years old are not required to test.

Masks

Masks are optional for vaccinated guests and recommended for unvaccinated children while onboard. In our terminals, masks are optional unless required by local regulation.

Some destinations we visit may require masks. Guests under 2 years old don’t need to wear a mask.

These protocols remain subject to change.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Challenges of cruising in Europe this year with Covid testing

In:
18 May 2022

Listen to the Show

Chris Gray Faust from CruiseCritic talks about how Covid testing is impacting European cruises.

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

On this episode:
Running time:

Royal Caribbean doesn't require back to back cruisers to do a covid test anymore

In:
06 May 2022

It looks like anyone doing more than Royal Caribbean cruise in a row does not need to take a Covid test again between sailings.

Cruise ship docked in Miami

A number of Royal Caribbean cruisers have alerted us that the cruise line informed them while on a back to back cruise a new Covid test is no longer necessary.

Among the many people to tell us about the policy change is Royal Caribbean's top cruiser of all time, Mario "Super Mario" Salcedo.

"Just been informed that back-to-back cruisers no longer need to be Covid tested for the following cruise," Mr. Salcedo wrote in an email.

Read moreBack-to-back cruises tips and advice

Royal Caribbean's website has also been updated to note the change that fully vaccinated guests and/or guests with a valid certificate of recovery to not need a test.


New policy on Royal Caribbean's website


Old policy on Royal Caribbean's website

"Fully vaccinated guests and guests with a valid certificate of recovery do not require additional testing to board their subsequent sailing. Unvaccinated guests will require a new precruise test prior to boarding their subsequent sailing."

In addition, RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader CruiseGus shared a copy of his back to back cruiser letter from his sailing. 

Up until now, Royal Caribbean required passengers who were staying on for another sailing to get a Covid test done while onboard the ship.

Guests would head to a designed area of the ship to get a complimentary Covid test on the last day of the cruise.

What about people changing ships?

According to Royal Caribbean's website, guests who are changing ships on consecutive sailings or have a day or more inbetween subsequent sailings will not have a change in policy.

"If you are moving to a different ship for your subsequent sailing, or your subsequent sailing on the same ship departs the following day, you will need to meet the precruise testing requirements for your subsequent sailing. "

The website says complimentary testing will be conducted onboard for those passengers changing ships, with instructions provided while onboard.

To be considered back-to-back, the time between sailings must not exceed 1 day. 

For example, if Sailing A disembarks on Monday, Sailing B must embark on Monday or Tuesday to be considered back-to-back. 

Guests whose sailings are not considered back-to-back will be responsible for procuring their own Covid-19 test at their own expense to meet the precruise testing requirements for the subsequent sailing.

CDC lowers number of vaccinated passengers on 'highly vaccinated voyages' from 95% to 90%

In:
05 May 2022

The minimum percentage of vaccinated passengers on a cruise ship has gone down.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced updates to its highly vaccinated program, which lists the requirements for cruise lines to follow.

Royal Caribbean is one of many cruise lines in the CDC's highly vaccinated program.

CDC will reduce the percentage threshold requirement for determining ‘highly vaccinated voyages’  from 95% to 90% of eligible passengers (90% of passengers who are 5 years of age and older).

The crew vaccination percentage will remain at 95% or greater for highly vaccinated voyages.    

Up until now, cruise ships in this program were required to sail with at least 95% vaccinated passengers.

By lowering the number of required vaccinated passengers, this opens up more capacity to unvaccinated children.

Deck chairs

The CDC also made another change related to cabins used for isolating Covid-19 passengers.

Isolation rooms no longer need to have negative pressure but must still be in predesignated areas. The exception to transferring individuals to predesignated cabins if within 36 hours of disembarkation remains in effect.

Following these changes, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a statement in support of the CDC changes.

"The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and its member cruise lines welcome the recent update to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters."

"The CDC’s adjustment of vaccination and quarantine and isolation room requirements recognizes the highly protective measures in place on board cruise ships and is in keeping with the CDC’s lifting of any travel-related advisory against cruising. CLIA-member cruise lines continue to provide one of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation for the traveling public with higher-vaccination rates and higher frequency of testing than most any other setting."

"We look forward to the further development of the program to bring greater alignment across the travel and tourism sector."

Inside the highly vaccinated program

Pool deck wide angle

Royal Caribbean opted into the CDC's highly vaccinated program at the end of February 2022 once the CDC's Conditional Sail Order became voluntary.

The program regulates foreign-flagged cruise vessels operating in U.S. waters with a common set of Covid-19 protocols for guests and crew members to abide by.

Allure of the Seas at the gangway

Even before Royal Caribbean opted into the program, its ships were usually sailing right around the 95% vaccinated mark.

In late December 2021, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said a typical sailing has anywhere between 95 to 98 percent fully vaccinated onboard population.

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