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CDC removes warning against going on a cruise ship

In:
30 Mar 2022

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has removed its warning against going on a cruise ship due to Covid-19.

Freedom of the Seas aerial at Nassau

The CDC website removed the warning from its website after previously dropping the warning level to level 2.

Plummeting Covid cases on cruise ships as a result of the cruise industry's effective health protocols have meant the government agency sees no reason to warn the public against traveling on a ship as a risk for catching Covid.

The CDC last lowered the warning level to level 2 on February 15, 2022.

The CDC website now just talks about being up to date with Covid-19 vaccines before going on a cruise, and sharing its recommendations for how to keep yourself safe while traveling. 

The CDC recommends anyone going on a cruise

  • Check cruise line requirements for testing and/or vaccination
  • Get travel insurance
  • If traveling by air, check airline requirements.
  • Wear a well-fitting mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation.
Brilliance of the Seas side docked

The rest of the recommendations center around not traveling if you have or had Covid and how to protect yourself and others.

Cruise industry reaction

As you might imagine, the cruise industry welcomed this change by the CDC.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a statement following the removal of the warning, "Today’s decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to altogether remove the Travel Health Notice for cruising recognizes the effective public health measures in place on cruise ships and begins to level the playing field, between cruise and similarly situated venues on land, for the first time since  March 2020."

"From the onset of the pandemic, CLIA’s cruise line members have prioritized the health and safety of their guests, crew, and the communities they visit and are sailing today with health measures in place that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting."

A full circle for the CDC

Throughout the previous two years, the CDC and the cruise industry have been at odds with views of how safe going on a cruise ship is due to Covid-19.

Following the cruise industry voluntarily shutting down in March 2020, the CDC banned cruise ship travel in the United States. This ban would remain in place for many months while the CDC and cruise industry worked to craft new regulations to ensure its return would be safe for all guests, crew members, and the communities ships visit.

There was a lot of back and forth, and the CDC held the cruise ships to a different standard from other forms of leisure travel.

Following the Omicron variant, the CDC began relaxing its view of risks of going on a cruise ship. The CDC lowered its warning level, while at the same time relaxing health protocols.

Royal Caribbean releases health protocols for Alaska cruises

In:
28 Mar 2022

Royal Caribbean has released its Covid-19 health protocols for cruises sailing to Alaska, including ships that sail from Vancouver.

Radiance of the Seas in Vancouver

The Alaska cruise season is set to begin soon, and Royal Caribbean has released the pre-cruise & onboard Covid health requirements for passengers.

The protocols differ slightly if your ship embarks in Vancouver or Seattle.

The latest protocols are for guests cruising to Alaska from the U.S. and from Vancouver, British Columbia through May 31, 2022. 

Vaccines

All guests 12 and older must be fully vaccinated.

Children aged 5 to 11 are not required to be vaccinated. However, kids who have been vaccinated may present proof and follow the fully vaccinated protocols. 

All crew members onboard will be fully vaccinated. 

Royal Caribbean will not accept a Certificate of Recovery in the place of a vaccination record.

Testing

Testing is required to enter Canada and to board the ship. These requirements vary depending on guests’ age and vaccination status.

  • Pre-Cruise: All guests 2 years and older must present a negative COVID-19 test result to board the ship.
    • Vaccinated guests: PCR or antigen test must be taken no more than 2 days prior to sailing.
    • Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 11: PCR test must be taken no more than 3 days prior to sailing — but not on boarding day. Antigen tests are not accepted for unvaccinated guests.
    • Pre-cruise testing costs and scheduling are the guest's responsibility.
  • Certificate of Recovery: Instead of a negative pre-cruise test, a Certificate of Recovery and a positive PCR test taken between 11-90 days prior to our sail date can be provided to sail with us.
  • Embarkation Day: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 will take a complimentary antigen test for COVID-19 during check-in. Registration details will be sent via email in advance. 
  • Prior to Entering Canada: Unvaccinated guests 5 to 11 years old will take a complimentary antigen test onboard prior to visiting or debarking in Canada.

For sailings debarking in Seattle, Washington or Seward, Alaska: Unvaccinated guests age 2 – 11 years will take a complimentary antigen test onboard no more than 1 day before arrival to the U.S. 

Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested.

Testing for Cruisetour Guests

Cruisetour Alaska train

Passengers that booked an add-on tour before or after their cruise in Alaska (known as a cruisetour) have additional testing requirements.

  • Royal Caribbean Cruisetour guests need to take a COVID-19 test on their own, at guest's expense, before the land-tour portion of your Cruisetour.
  • Vaccinated guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 2 days before the day the land tour starts. 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 the day the land tour starts.
  • Guests under 2 years of age do not need to complete a pre-Cruisetour test.

Cruisetour guests will also need to complete the pre-cruise testing to board the ship in addition to the pre-tour testing. Vaccinated guests are advised to bring an eMed test kit with them on their Cruisetour to meet the pre-cruise testing requirement.

For vaccinated guests without a test kit or unvaccinated kids age 2-11 in need of a PCR test, a testing provider in Anchorage will be available to test guests at their own expense.

Details on how to register for testing in Anchorage will be provided by your Cruisetour guide.

Excursions

Whale in Alaska

There are no restrictions on which tours passengers can book in Alaska, regardless of vaccination status.

Royal Caribbean is still "working closely with local government and health authorities to finalize protocols and requirements for going ashore in Canadian ports of call."

Masks

Mask guidance march 2022

Masks are optional for fully vaccinated guests.

Royal Caribbean expects unvaccinated children to continue wearing masks indoors and in crowded settings.

Masks are required for all children age 2 years and older while at the Adventure Ocean youth program.

Guests under 2 years do not have to wear a mask at any time. 

Documentation

ArriveCAN app

In addition to bringing a passport, Covid-19 vaccination card, and a Covid-19 test result, there's one additional piece of documentation passengers should bring for all sailings from Seattle, Seward and Vancouver.

All travelers to Canada, or their legal guardians, must download the ArriveCAN app or complete the mandatory travel information via the ArriveCAN website prior to your entry into Canada.

This applies whether guests are departing on their cruise from Canada, ending the cruise in Canada, or visiting the country as a port of call.

Royal Caribbean says they are working with the Canadian government to make this process easier for guests arriving by cruise ship, and will ensure guests have guidance to complete this process smoothly onboard. 

More information

Royal Caribbean begins to release European cruise Covid protocols

In:
22 Mar 2022

With Royal Caribbean's European cruise season just weeks away from beginning, the cruise line has begun to publish its health protocols for cruises in the region.

Guests with cruises booked in Europe this summer have been anxious to know what the onboard experience will be like, as well as what changes they can expect. 

Royal Caribbean has been cautious with announcing protocols, as government regulations and health expert recommendations have been changing regularly. But the first set of protocols for cruisers is starting to emerge.

Royal Caribbean informed passengers on its transatlantic sailings, as well as cruises from Copenhagen, Denmark, of what to expect for Covid protocols.  Protocols for other ships sailing in Europe in 2022 are expected soon.

Odyssey of the Seas to sail from Haifa, Israel starting in May 2021 - Page 3 - Royal Caribbean News and Rumors - Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean also added that these protocols are subject to change due to evolving government regulations in the region.

Here's a look at the first protocols released so far on Royal Caribbean's website.

Transatlantic

Royal Caribbean has released protocols for guests sailing from U.S. to Europe on Transatlantic cruises.

These apply to the following sailings:

  • April 20, 2022 Wonder of the Seas sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Barcelona, Spain
  • April 23, 2022 Odyssey of the Seas sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Rome, Italy
  • April 29, 2022 Vision of the Seas sailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Barcelona, Spain
  • April 29, 2022 Jewel of the Seas sailing from Miami, Florida to Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • May 2, 2022 Anthem of the Seas sailing from Cape Liberty, New Jersey to Southampton, U.K.

Vaccination

For transatlantic sailings, all guests, regardless of age, must be fully vaccinated. Guests who do not meet this requirement, including unvaccinated children under age 12, will not be permitted to board a transatlantic sailing departing from the U.S. to Europe.

Additionally, all crew members onboard will be fully vaccinated.

Testing

Depending on where your ship sails to, the testing requirements are different.

Most transatlantic guests must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 1 day before boarding day. This is due to a requirement from the government of Spain for ships that visit the country.

Guests on the May 2nd Anthem of the Seas sailing to the U.K. will have 2 days to complete this test.

During the cruise, guests 12 and older 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 the sailing depending on itinerary. 

Mask guidance march 2022

Masks

Masks are optional for vaccinated guests onboard. Masks will be required in Adventure Ocean, in the terminal, and may be required at various destinations.

Excursions

Fully vaccinated guests can visit most ports of call freely. Depending on their itinerary, guests who are not up-to-date with their vaccines/ boosters may require multiple tests to disembark in ports of call.

Cruises from Copenhagen, Denmark

Royal Caribbean ship in Copenhagen, Denmark

Voyager of the Seas will sail from Copenhagen in the summer of 2022.

Vaccination

All Royal Caribbean guests aged 12 and older must present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination approved by the WHO or EMA, with the final dose administered at least 14 days before sailing.

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

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

Bornholm island Denmark

Testing

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

Pre-cruise

Besides what Royal Caribbean requires, non-EU or Schengen visitors must present a negative Covid-19 antigen test taken within 24 hours of their flight departure time.

Prior to embarkation day, fully vaccinated guests will need to show a negative result for an antigen test taken no more than two days before boarding day.

Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 will take a complimentary test when checking in at the terminal.

During the cruise

Depending on their itinerary, guests who are not up-to-date with their vaccines/ boosters or whose vaccine is not approved by the EMA, may require multiple tests and curated shore excursions to disembark in ports of call.

For sailings from Copenhagen, this currently includes guests age 12 and above for the rest of Europe.

Prior to disembarkation

Guests age 15 and above not up-to-date with their vaccines/ boosters , will take an antigen test within two days of disembarkation day. Guests will be notified onboard about how to register for this test.

Guests under 2 years of age do not need to complete a pre-cruise test.

copenhagen denmark rosenborg

Masks

Masks are optional for fully vaccinated guests.

Masks are required for all children age 2 and older while at the Adventure Ocean youth program. Guests under 2 do not have to wear a mask at any time. 

Excursions

Fully vaccinated guests can visit most ports of call freely. Depending on their itinerary, guests who are not up-to-date with their vaccines/ boosters may require multiple tests to disembark in ports of call.

What it's like to go on a cruise with the less strict Covid-19 protocols

In:
21 Mar 2022

Going on a cruise ship right now feels as close to "normal" as we've ever been since early 2020.

Wonder of the Seas night lit up

With cruise ship health protocols so effective in keeping Covid-19 cases down, and Royal Caribbean opting into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) highly vaccinated program, face masks are optional onboard while indoors for fully vaccinated passengers. In addition, other policies have been scaled back.

I sailed on Wonder of the Seas for two weeks with the new protocols in place and wanted to share my experience for anyone who's wondering how close to normal cruising is right now.

Keep in mind that my experience is not indicative of what your experience will or will not be. I hope it sheds some insight into what the written policy really means in practical terms.

What's changed?

Mask guidance march 2022

The biggest difference you'll notice is that you don't have to wear a face mask indoors anymore.

As of February 25, 2022, Royal Caribbean made masks optional for fully vaccinated passengers.

Unvaccinated children to continue wearing masks indoors and in crowded settings. Masks are required for all children while at the Adventure Ocean youth program. Guests under 2 do not have to wear a mask at any time.

Face masks free zone Royal Caribbean

Masks should also be worn at the cruise terminal during the boarding and screening process, as well as during disembarkation. 

Another big change is vaccinated zones are a thing of the past.

Instead of having select bars and lounges off limits to unvaccinated kids or having vaccinated-only performances in theaters, these distinctions have gone away.

Adventure Ocean

Another big change is Adventure Ocean no longer has limited capacity.  While face masks are required of all children in Adventure Ocean, there's no need for advance reservations for children three years and older.

My experience with the relaxed protocols

Having had been on more than a dozen cruises with various health protocols, it was a bit strange having a more open feel to the cruise ship experience.

It took me about three days to stop feeling like I forgot to put my mask on when I would leave my stateroom. Remembering to grab and put on a mask when I left my cabin became an almost Pavlovian response. 

Needless to say, it was a welcome feeling.

When my kids joined me for the second sailing, they asked me when that feeling goes away, because they too felt like they were forgetting something.

Speaking of my children, it was an absolute joy to not have to make reservations for Adventure Ocean anymore.

Under the old protocols, Adventure Ocean limited capacity and required reservations so that everyone had a fair chance to get their kids in at least some days.

In practice, it just annoyed everyone and it left many families at a disadvantage without supervised child care in the evenings.  In the early days of very low ship capacity, this wasn't a big deal because there were few kids. But as ship capacity went up in the late winter, Adventure Ocean didn't scale up their capacity and it was disappointing.

Other than requiring masks, Adventure Ocean is essentially back to normal with their admission policy, as well as games. All the kids' favorite activities are back.

Another result of Royal Caribbean opting into the highly vaccinated program with the CDC is more activities can return, such as laser tag and pool deck activities like sexiest man competition.

Guests are able to sit at bars, and there are no longer tables designated off limits to promote social distancing.

In summary, I found cruising with the relaxed protocols a welcome change. While I didn't mind cruising with a mask on indoors, being able to remove my mask once onboard brought back the sense of cruising again the way it used to be more than ever.

Increasing capacity

Wonder of the Seas pool deck busy

The days of lower ship capacity are quickly becoming a memory, as we're seeing Royal Caribbean ships move their capacity limits higher.

A running thread on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog message boards tracks the amount of passengers on a given sailing, and there appears to be anecdotal evidence of higher amounts of passengers this month than last month.

Based on double occupancy, some ships are seeing much higher guest counts. It's also worth noting Spring Break has begun and demand for cruises is higher this time of year than earlier in the year.

  • Adventure of the Seas March 14 sailing: 2933 passengers (94% capacity)
  • Mariner of the Seas March 17 sailing: 3,000 passengers (89% capacity)
  • Wonder of the Seas March 11 sailing: 4,396 passengers (76% capacity)
  • Anthem of the Seas March 20 sailing: 3281 passengers (78% capacity)

More passengers on a cruise ship isn't a bad thing. Rather, it's a sign of healthy demand for cruising and a return to the norm of what ships were like prior to the pandemic.

Another benefit to more guests onboard is certain activities feel more active. Theater shows, musical performances, and trivia are all much more well attended, which adds to the energy of these experiences.

Core Covid protocols remain

While some Covid-19 protocols have been scaled back, the core Covid protocols are still in place.

Pre-cruise covid testing for all passengers and a requirement all cruisers 12 years old and above be fully vaccinated remains for all ships, and there is no indication these protocols are going anywhere.

Oasis of the Seas in New York with Statue of Liberty

Moreover, enhanced cleaning and sanitization protocols are being utilized onboard ships. Royal Caribbean already enhanced its air-filtration systems before cruises restarted in 2021 to ensure the airborne spread of Covid would be a nearly non-existent threat.

Thankfully, the emuster process remains unchanged as well. Guests complete most of the safety drill on their smartphone at their leisure on the first day, and simply have to report to their muster station so they know where it is located.

CDC relaxes more cruise ship Covid-19 protocols

In:
19 Mar 2022

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its requirements for cruise ships sailing in U.S. waters by relaxing a few protocols.

All the cruise lines operating in the United States, including Royal Caribbean, are operating under the CDC's Covid-19 Program for Cruise Ships. This is a series of regulations that govern Covid-19 protocols onboard.

Over the last few weeks, the CDC has rolled back many Covid-19 protocols surrounding the operation of cruise ships, including twice lowering the warning level for travel on cruise ships.

The CDC changed three rules that make things easier for the cruise lines.

Interactive experiences

6 things you may not have tried on a Royal Caribbean cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

Cruise ship operators may resume interactive experiences such as galley tours and cooking classes. 

Up until now, these onboard activities were prohibited, such as interactive cooking, culinary workshops and demonstrations, mixology/blending classes, and galley and other "behind the scene" tours.

With the change, the requirements for food services for cruise ships operating under the CDC's classification of highly vaccinated ships (which is what Royal Caribbean does), become recommendations instead of requirements.

This opens the way for activities such as sushi making classes, behind-the-scenes tours, and cupcake making classes to resume.

Quarantine in own cabin

If a traveler identified as a close contact is disembarking the ship within 36 hours, the cruise line may allow the traveler to stay in the original cabin if the traveler will be the only person in that cabin.

Previously, they would have been moved to quarantined area of the ship with special cabins for someone confirmed or suspected of having Covid-19.

Port agreements

The CDC also revised the requirements cruise lines must have with the ports their ships sail from.

Specifically, the CDC modified port agreements, removing ship and capacity limits at ports. 

Cruise industry reaction

Following the changed rules, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a statement that characterized these revisions as, "welcome changes."

"CLIA cruise line members continue to lead the way in unmatched health and safety measures compared to virtually any other commercial setting. "

"The updates announced today acknowledge the effectiveness of the cruise lines in their ability to create an environment that provides one of the highest levels of COVID-19 mitigation and reflect the improvements in the public health landscape."

"CLIA member cruise lines will continue to operate in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of everyone onboard, as well as the communities that we visit."

CDC lowers travel warning against cruise ships

In:
14 Mar 2022

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered its warning level to just a level 2 risk.

Odyssey of the Seas aerial

After reaching a level 4 warning earlier this year, the CDC has lowered its warning level now two times.

The level 2 warning means it there is a "moderate" risk of Covid-19, which is based on statistics that show the agency has seen 50 to 99 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past 28 days.

This means essentially that there has been a marked decrease in Covid-19 cases on cruise ships operating in the United States.

At a level 2 warning, the CDC simply advises everyone to make sure you are up to date with Covid-19 vaccines. Those that are not and are at increased risk for severe illness from Covid, should avoid cruise ship travel.

The four warning levels are as follows: 

  • Level 4: Very high level of COVID-19
  • Level 3: High level of COVID-19
  • Level 2: Moderate level of COVID-19
  • Level 1: Low level of COVID-19

Prior to this change, cruise ships were at level 3. The CDC lowered the warning from level 4 to level 3 on February 15, 2022.

In order for cruise ships to get to level 1, they must have fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past 28 days.

The good news comes nearly two years to the day when Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines voluntary shutdown in March 2020 due to Covid-19.

Ready to move forward

Plummeting Covid cases on cruise ships is not news to the cruise lines, who are eager to move past the restart phase and back into normal operations.

Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of hotel operations, Mark Tamis, talked about the prospects of moving past Covid last week while on Wonder of the Seas, "We are back and it’s the greatest vacation and safest there is."

"We’re not saying the return to cruising anymore, because we’re officially back."

"We’re back to bold."

A big part of cruising's success has been its reliance on proven health protocols throughout the pandemic.

Royal Caribbean requires guests aged 12 and older to be fully vaccinated and are asked to provide a negative test result taken no more than two days prior to boarding (or 3 if they are unvaccinated).

Unvaccinated children 11 and younger are required to test prior to sailing and are required to book an antigen testing appointment onboard the ship prior to departing. Unvaccinated children are only allowed to take approved Royal Caribbean shore excursions.

Crew are fully vaccinated and boosted when eligible, and Royal Caribbean states that they are regularly tested. 

Tips for wearing your vaccination wristband on Royal Caribbean

In:
23 Feb 2022

If you're vaccinated against Covid-19, you'll need to wear a bracelet to distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, and this band can sometimes be a nuisance to wear.

When cruises first restarted last summer, Royal Caribbean was using silicone wristbands that could be taken off at any time. In the fall, they primarily switched to a ribbon band that, once tightened, cannot be loosened.

While the ribbon band may seem convenient as it will not fall off throughout the cruise, many passengers find the band’s design to be inconvenient.

Royal Caribbean Blog readers shared recently on our message boards the tips and tricks they use in order to make the wristband experience a lot more comfortable while onboard.

Put the wristband on loosely at first

When you receive the wristband at the cruise terminal, do not tighten it too much. Because you cannot loosen it once it has been tightened, a tight wristband can quickly become uncomfortable. Putting the wristband on loosely at first will allow you more flexibility to take it off when it isn’t needed. 

If you tightened the wristband too much, get a new one. Some guests find that they made their wristband way too tight. Don’t fret, though. If your wristband is too tight, simply go to Guest Services and ask them to cut it off. They will give you a new wristband.

Put the wristband on your non-dominant hand

If you’re right handed, be sure to put the wristband on your left hand. The wristbands all come in one size, and more often than not, there will be a lot of extra material hanging off once you tighten it to your wrist.

This “tail” can get in the way when you are eating or doing activities onboard. Frankly, it can be a little annoying! Be sure to put it on the hand you will not be using as much so it stays out of the way as much as possible.

Cut off the long tail after tightening the wristband

If the long tail on your wristband is really bothering you, go to guest services and ask if they can cut the tail of your wristband to make it shorter.

There will be no need to worry about the wristband dipping into your mashed potatoes or tomato sauce at dinner if the long tail is no longer there!

You don’t have to wear the wristband on your wrist

All vaccinated guests must wear a wristband, but it does not necessarily mean you must wear it on your wrist. 

You can put it around your ankle, tie it to a lanyard, or even loop it on your belt. As long as you remember to take it with you each time you leave your stateroom or change outfits, you will not have a problem.

Use items to tie the wristband’s tail back

Some passengers have brought rubber bands and clips onboard to secure the wristband’s tail. By using small rubber bands, the tail is able to be moved out of the way, making it much more comfortable for guests during the cruise.

Likewise, another tip shared was to purchase these cord locks which allow you to adjust how tight or loose your wristband fits.

Royal Caribbean Blog reader Ashley Dillo stated that “When I am given the wristband I just pull the nylon all the way through the black plastic piece like I'm tightening it all the way and it slips off. Then I thread the ends through the cord lock and it makes it adjustable for easy on/off.”

If you've been on a cruise recently, what did you think of the new ribbon wristbands? Do you have any tips and tricks for making them more comfortable? Join the discussion on our message boards and let us know!

Here's Royal Caribbean's new optional mask policy

In:
22 Feb 2022

Beginning February 25, Royal Caribbean will make masks optional for fully vaccinated passengers.

Face masks free zone Royal Caribbean

The cruise line announced last week it would make the change as a result of opting into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) highly vaccinated program, which requires 95% passengers to be vaccinated.

While the vaccine requirement is now at a higher threshold than it was previously, it does allow Royal Caribbean to make face masks optional for fully vaccinated passengers.

Face masks on please sign

Masks had been a cornerstone of Royal Caribbean's health protocols since cruises began sailing from the United States in July 2021. Spikes in Covid cases due to the Delta and Omicron variants forced Royal Caribbean to keep, and even tighten mask wearing, since that time.

Royal Caribbean had already rolled back its mask wearing rules to pre-Omicron as of February 15, 2022.  This new change on February 25th will make them mostly optional.

Mask rules for U.S. sailings

Oasis of the Seas in New York with Statue of Liberty

So where and when will masks still be required? And when can you take it off?

Royal Caribbean has released the new mask requirements for sailings departing the U.S. and Puerto Rico on or after February 25, 2022.

Ninety-five percent of guests must be fully vaccinated, excluding children under five years who are not eligible for the vaccine. 

Unvaccinated children to continue wearing masks indoors and in crowded settings. Masks are required for all children while at the Adventure Ocean youth program. Guests under 2 do not have to wear a mask at any time.

Masks should also be worn at the cruise terminal during the boarding and screening process, as well as during disembarkation. 

Masks are optional at Perfect Day at CocoCay and Labadee.

The new rules are listed on Royal Caribbean's website.

Europe

At this time, Royal Caribbean has not yet determined its Covid-19 protocols for cruises in 2022 from Europe.

Royal Caribbean will convey those protocols at a later date.

Matching other cruise line policies

Virgin Voyages in Miami

Royal Caribbean is not the only cruise line dropping mask rules.

Each of the major cruise lines has announced similar policies, including Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line. Both of these lines have either already stopped requiring that facial coverings be worn in most indoor settings or will do so beginning next month.

Virgin Voyages also announced it will drop its mask requirement.

Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises have not yet announced changes to their face mask policies, although Disney's theme parks made masks optional there.

Cruise fan reaction

Having to wear masks on cruise ships has been a hot button topic for cruise fans, and the general public. The 

Few health protocols have been as contentious as having to wear a mask on a ship.

On the Royal Caribbean Blog Facebook page, there were quite a lot of comments regarding Royal Caribbean's decision to drop masks in exchange for requiring 95% of passengers be vaccinated.

Christie Smith wrote, "I really like this. It's a good step in the right direction."

Lindsay Murphy is waiting for more protocols to erode, "Maybe someday I'll cruise again, but to me it's just not worth it, vaccinated or not. I'll wait my turn."

Royal Caribbean opts into CDC highly vaccinated program and will require 95% passengers to be vaccinated

In:
18 Feb 2022

Royal Caribbean has opted into the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) voluntary Covid-19 reporting program.

On the final day to opt into the program, Royal Caribbean announced it will join as part of the, "highly vaccinated program"

This means at least 95% of passengers and 95% of crew will be fully vaccinated on Royal Caribbean ships.

The benefit of requiring at least 95% vaccinated passengers is face masks will no longer be required indoors on Royal Caribbean ships.

The new program will go into effect beginning February 25, 2022.

Royal Caribbean will join the "highly vaccinated program", which is defined as 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.

Prior to this change, Royal Caribbean had not required 95% of its passengers to be vaccinated, unlike sister company Celebrity Cruises.

Cruise lines that choose to participate in CDC’s Covid-19 Program must advise CDC of the vaccination status classification for each participating ship. 

In addition, each ship must maintain these thresholds for each voyage.

On the CDC website, Royal Caribbean's ships appear in the listing of the Cruise Ship Status Dashboard under the category of "Highly Vaccinated".

Inside the new CDC program

 The new optional system for foreign-flagged cruise vessels operating in U.S. waters will mark ships in one of three categories, depending on the level of vaccinated passengers and crew on board:

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

The new CDC program is a follow-up to its Conditional Sail Order, which expired in mid-January.

By opting into the Highly Vaccinated program, Royal Caribbean ships will be expected to uphold surveillance, documentation and reporting of Covid-19 cases onboard to the CDC, as well as continue subjecting them to the agency’s color-coded system that designates which cruise ships are being monitored or investigated for high case numbers.

95% vaccinated

The move to require at least 95% vaccinated may seem like a big change until you realize Royal Caribbean was already basically at that threshold.

Thanks to high vaccination rates among adults and the addition of children between the ages of 6-12 that have recently gotten vaccinated, the average sailing was already hovering around the number.

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.

Michael Bayley speaks out

Mr. Bayley posted on Facebook an update on Royal Caribbean’s decision to opt into the new program. 

As many may know the CDC conditional sail order expired in  mid January and we continued to operate voluntarily under the program.

Recently the CDC issued the next phase of guidelines consisting of three categories each built on the same foundation of protecting health and each with specific guidelines based on vaccination and booster status. All cruise lines had until today to opt in or out of the program.

Today Royal Caribbean confirmed we will participate in the CDC's voluntary Program.

Specifically, we will operate under the program's Highly Vaccinated category beginning with sailings departing from the U.S. as of Friday, Feb. 25. Requirements include sailing with 95% of crew members fully vaccinated, which Royal Caribbean already exceeds with 100% of its crew fully vaccinated and boosted when eligible.

Ninety-five percent of guests must be fully vaccinated as well -- this excludes children under five years who are not eligible for the vaccine. The updated protocols will include face masks being optional for all fully vaccinated guests and expected for unvaccinated children.

All kids will be required to wear face masks during Adventure Ocean youth program activities.

We are thoughtfully working through the details regarding other changes to our health and safety protocols which we will share with our guests and travel advisors before Feb. 25

Guide to pre-cruise Covid test

In:
18 Feb 2022

Understanding Covid test requirements needed for a Royal Caribbean cruise can be a bit confusing. In reality, though, taking a Covid test before your cruise just requires a little planning upfront.

Here are the latest testing policies and requirements as of February 2022.

Sailing from the United States homeports

Guests sailing from the United States homeports (excluding Puerto Rico) should adhere to the following guidelines:

For vaccinated guests

Vaccinated guests must show a negative Covid-19 test taken no more than two days before embarkation. This includes children aged 5-11 who have been fully vaccinated. Proof of vaccination must be presented in addition to the Covid test results.

The Covid test can be either a PCR or rapid antigen test. Here is a guide to when you can take your Covid test:

  • If your cruise leaves on Sunday, you can take your Covid test Friday, Saturday, or Sunday
  • If your cruise leaves on Monday, you can take your Covid test Saturday, Sunday, or Monday
  • If your cruise leaves on Tuesday, you can take your Covid test Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Wednesday, you can take your Covid test Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Thursday, you can take your Covid test Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday
  • If your cruise leaves on Friday, you can take your Covid test Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday
  • If your cruise leaves on Saturday, you can take your Covid test Thursday, Friday, or Saturday

The amount of hours that have passed since your test do not matter. If you take your test at 8AM on a Thursday and your cruise doesn’t leave until 5PM on Saturday, the test will still be accepted. Royal Caribbean counts tests by days, not hours, so there is no need to worry if it has been ~50 hours instead of 48 hours since your test by the time you board the ship.

For unvaccinated guests

Unvaccinated guests aged 2 to 11 must show a negative Covid test from a PCR test. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted. PCR tests must be taken no more than three days prior to embarkation. Guests under 2 years of age do not need a Covid test.

Important note: PCR tests for unvaccinated children cannot be taken on the same day as embarkation.

  • If your cruise leaves on Sunday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Thursday Friday, or Saturday
  • If your cruise leaves on Monday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Friday, Saturday, or Sunday
  • If your cruise leaves on Tuesday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Saturday, Sunday, or Monday
  • If your cruise leaves on Wednesday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Thursday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday
  • If your cruise leaves on Friday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday
  • If your cruise leaves on Saturday, unvaccinated kids can take a PCR test Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday

Additional testing for unvaccinated children

In addition to the required pre-cruise PCR test, additional tests are required for unvaccinated children.

All unvaccinated children must take a complimentary rapid antigen test upon arrival at the cruise terminal on embarkation day. More details for the Covid test at the terminal will be sent via email prior to the cruise.

For cruises that are five nights or longer, unvaccinated children will require an additional complimentary antigen test before the end of the cruise. Details on how to register for this test will be provided once onboard the ship.

Where can I get my Covid test?

The easiest and most convenient option for vaccinated travelers is to order the Abbott BinaxNow Ag Card Home Test. This is a telehealth option in which a proctor watches and guides you through the Covid test. Tests come in packs of 2-6, and it is recommended to order more than you need in case of any discrepancies within the tests (missing items, invalid result, etc.).

Unvaccinated children cannot do the approved at-home test because it is a rapid antigen test. A PCR test is required for unvaccinated children.

Pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens also offer rapid and PCR Covid tests. Search for appointments near you prior to the cruise to ensure you can get one booked. These tests are free. The ease of finding a Covid appointment at a pharmacy can change with demand and your location, so check early to see if this option will work for you.

In addition to the at-home test and pharmacies, Covid tests can be found at urgent care locations, pop-up testing sites, health clinics, and more. Research what is offered in your local area far in advance to ensure you do not run into any surprises when trying to schedule a Covid test.

Our recommendation for vaccinated travelers is to take a rapid antigen test as opposed to a PCR test. Results come back much quicker, so there is no need to worry about not receiving the results in time.

Covid test results should include the following:

  • Your name
  • Date the test was taken
  • Type of Covid test
  • Negative result
  • Lab’s CLIA or Certification number
  • Address of the lab

Important note #1: The Abbott BinaxNow Ag Card Home Test is the only at-home test accepted by Royal Caribbean. Do not use the regular Abbot BinaxNow test sold over the counter, as it does not have a proctor watching you take the test.

Important note #2: Recently the Biden-Harris administration approved up to four free at-home Covid tests per household. These tests are not accepted by Royal Caribbean as there is no proctor watching you do the test.

How do I present my test results?

Test results can be shown either on a phone or printed paper at the cruise terminal.

Are tests available at the cruise terminal?

All unvaccinated children must complete a complimentary Covid-19 test at the cruise terminal. This is in addition to the required PCR test they must complete no more than 3 days prior to the cruise.

For vaccinated passengers who were unable to meet the testing requirements prior to arrival, tests may be available at the cruise terminal. These tests are extremely limited, however, and start at $99 per person. Tests at the terminal can be scheduled here.

Because of limited availability, this is not a reliable testing option and guests should complete their test prior to arrival at the terminal.

Testing required for international guests to enter the United States

If you are traveling by air from another country to the cruise port, such as Canada or Mexico, a negative Covid test or proof of recovery must be provided.

If traveling by air to the US, a negative COVID-19 test must be taken no more than 1 calendar day before travel to the United States. This is counted by calendar day and not hours. Therefore, if your flight leaves at noon on Saturday, a Covid test could be taken at any time on Friday or Saturday morning.

Both antigen tests and NAAT tests are accepted. A rapid antigen test is recommended due to quicker turnaround times prior to the flight. A full list of accepted test types can be found on the CDC’s website.

If you have recovered from Covid-19 in the past 90 days, documentation of recovery can be provided in lieu of a test result. These documents must include a positive Covid test result taken no more than 90 calendar days before the flight and a letter from a licensed healthcare provider stating that the passenger has been cleared for travel.

Important note: There is no testing requirement for travelers entering the United States by land or sea, and these requirements only apply to air travel.

Additional testing requirements by port

Puerto Rico

For guests with cruises booked from San Juan, Puerto Rico, the following is required:

  • Fully vaccinated travelers arriving on domestic flights do not need to show a negative Covid test prior to entry in Puerto Rico.
  • Unvaccinated travelers arriving on domestic flights must show a negative Covid-19 test (antigen or PCR) taken within 48 hours of arrival.
  • All travelers arriving to Puerto Rico on international flights must follow the CDC entry requirements to the United States as described above.
  • Travelers who tested positive for Covid-19 within 90 days prior to entry can instead submit a positive test document and health certificate from a doctor stating proof of recovery. This is for entering Puerto Rico by air, not boarding the cruise ship.

The same negative Covid-19 test results used to enter Puerto Rico can be used to embark the ship, provided the timing is correct.

Barbados

For guests with cruises booked from Bridgetown, Barbados, the following is required:

  • All travelers aged 5 and older must present with a PCR test taken within 3 days prior to entry by air OR a Rapid PCR test taken within 1 day prior to entry by air. Home tests and rapid antigen tests are not accepted. For more details on accepted tests, look here.
  • Covid-19 test results must be uploaded online to Barbados’ online Immigration form.

Important note: All guests 2 and older must take a Covid-19 antigen test at the terminal in Barbados prior to embarking the ship. Details will be sent to guests prior to the cruise and tests are complementary.

Canada

Canada has recently relaxed its Covid-19 entry requirements. For guests with cruises booked from Canada, the following is required starting February 28th:

  • Travelers can use a Covid-19 rapid antigen test taken the day prior to arrival or a molecular (PCR) test taken no more than 72 hours prior to scheduled flight or land border entry to meet pre-entry requirements.

Europe

Guidelines and testing requirements for Europe cruises in 2022 have not yet been released.

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