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You probably won't have to wear a mask in cruise ship terminals anymore

In:
19 Apr 2022

It looks as though cruise ship terminals will not require passengers to wear a face mask.

Following a federal judge's decision to overturn the federal mask mandate in transportation hubs on Monday, the cruise industry has been wondering if the mask requirement would be rescinded.

Almost immediately airlines and some airports began informing the public masks were no longer required, but cruise ports remained quiet.

Late on Tuesday, the United States Coast Guard issued an update to its Requirements in the Maritime Transportation System to indicate they will no longer enforce the mandate following the judicial ruling.

"On April 18, 2022, the US District Court, Middle District of Florida, vacated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mandate for mask wear in airports, train stations, and other transportation hubs as well as on airplanes, buses, trains, and most other public conveyances in the United States, including vessels."

Per this ruling, the CDC has declared that the mandate is no longer in effect. Federal agencies are reviewing the court’s decision. In the interim the Coast Guard will not enforce the directives requiring mask use on public transportation and in transportation hubs."

The Coast Guard had been responsible for implementing the mask requirement, similar to how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was responsible for enforcing it in airports.

In addition to the Coast Guard update, the CDC also updated its website to indicate the mask requirement is no longer in effect, "As a result of a court order, effective immediately and as of April 18, 2022, CDC’s January 29, 2021 Order requiring masks on public transportation conveyances and at transportation hubs is no longer in effect.

"Therefore, CDC will not enforce the Order. CDC continues to recommend that people wear masks in indoor public transportation settings at this time."

Royal Caribbean removed face masks as a requirement while onboard and indoors on its ships back in February 2022.

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

Since Royal Caribbean made that change, masks were only mandatory for all guests while in the cruise ship terminal immediately before or after a cruise.

With this change, masks will be optional to wear in the cruise terminal.

What will the cruise ports do?

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 1 - Embarkation | Royal Caribbean Blog

So far, only one port has officially said masks are not required indoors.

Flynn Cruiseport Boston issued a statement on social media that masks are optional.

Prior to the Coast Guard's update, Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida issued this statement, "Our intention at Port Everglades is to allow the cruise lines to take the lead on instituting and maintaining their own safety policies in the cruise terminals and on their ships."

Guests that boarded Mariner of the Seas on Tuesday from Port Canaveral still had to wear a mask during the boarding process.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog writer Allie Hubers shared a photo that the mask rule was still being enforced. Her report came in hours before the Coast Guard update.

Royal Caribbean announces health protocols for UK cruises

In:
19 Apr 2022

Royal Caribbean has shared the health protocols for summer 2022 cruises out of Southampton.

The newly released protocols apply to ships sailing from Southampton, England through May 31, 2022.

Keep in mind these protocols are subject to change.

Here's a look at what Royal Caribbean has planned for protocols.

Vaccine & booster requirement

All guests 12 years and older must be fully vaccinated, having received their final dose no less than 14 days prior to sailing.

Additionally, for the purpose of these sailings from Southampton, 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.

Children aged 5 to 11 years are not required to be vaccinated.

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

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

Entry into the UK

London

Guests traveling into England do not have any entry requirements at this time. This applies whether you are vaccinated or not. 

Royal Caribbean advises guests traveling into England from another country to look into any requirements of their own home country may have for exiting or re-entering its borders.

Testing

Anthem of the Seas docked in Southampton

Pre-cruise

Guests who are up-to-date with their vaccines will be required to present a negative test result for a COVID-19 test taken no more than 2 days before sailing.

Guests 2 years and older who are not up-to-date with their vaccines, or who are unvaccinated, will be required to present a negative test result for a COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before sailing. 

The test must be conducted at a certified testing location or supervised by a healthcare telemedicine professional.

Onboard

Depending on the itinerary, guests 12 years 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 UK sailings.

This test is at the guest's expense if they are ages 12 years and up and considered unvaccinated or if they are not up-to-date at the price of $55 USD per test.

Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested. 

Return home

Guests may be required to complete testing before flying home at their own expense. 

  • Guests can take advantage of testing offered via ExpressTest at Heathrow and Gatwick airports by registering ahead of time here
  • Some local testing options include The Regenerative Clinic or Randox Health. 
  • Vaccinated North American guests can travel with tele-health testing kits such as eMed for U.S. guests and Switch Health tests for Canadian guests.

Shore Excursion

Fully vaccinated guests and unvaccinated kids can visit ports of call freely.

Additional testing requirements may exist in some countries for guests who are unvaccinated.

For sailings visiting France, guests who are from an Orange List country will not be allowed to visit the port, per French government regulations. Learn which countries are on the Orange List

Masks

Masks are optional for fully vaccinated guests.

Unvaccinated children are expected to continue wearing masks indoors and in crowded settings.

Masks will be required in Adventure Ocean, in the cruise terminal, and may be required at various destinations.

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

Full protocols

Royal Caribbean releases cruise ship health protocols for U.S. sailings June 30, 2022

In:
15 Apr 2022

The next batch of health protocols for Royal Caribbean's North American cruises has been released.

Royal Caribbean announced health & safety protocols for North America departures through June 30, 2022. 

As always, these protocols are subject to change at anytime.

The newly released protocols are identical to the existing protocols they replaced, with no noticeable differences.

You can also refer to the health protocols for Alaska cruises, which differ slightly.

Vaccines

All guests 12 years and older must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before sailing.

Guests under the age of 12 years, who are considered fully vaccinated, should follow the guidance for vaccinated guests below.

Testing

Pre-Cruise

All guests 2 years and older must present a negative COVID-19 test result.

Vaccinated guests ages 12 years and over: PCR or antigen test must be taken no more than 2 days prior to sailing.

Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 11 years: 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.

No testing required for guests under age 2.

Pre-cruise testing costs and scheduling are the guest's responsibility.  

Docked in Terminal A

Embarkation Day

Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years will take a complimentary test for COVID-19 during check-in. 

Onboard

For sailings that are 5 nights or longer, unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years will take a complimentary antigen test prior to debark. 

Masks

Woman wearing a mask in front of cruise ship

Masks are optional for fully vaccinated guests.

Unvaccinated children are expected to continue wearing masks indoors and in crowded settings.

Masks are required for all children 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.

Shore Excursions

All guests, regardless of vaccination status, may visit most ports freely or book a shore excursion.

A few ports still require an excursion to go ashore, regardless of vaccination status. 

Full protocols

Royal Caribbean releases Italy & Spain health protocols for Mediterranean cruises

In:
12 Apr 2022

With less than a month until cruises begin in the Mediterranean this year, Royal Caribbean has released its Barcelona & Italy health protocols.

Harmony of the Seas in Barcelona

The Mediterranean cruise season will commence in earnest in May, so Royal Caribbean has published what the pre-cruise & onboard Covid health requirements will be for passengers.

These particular protocols apply to sailings from Spain and Italy through May 31, 2022. 

Some destinations we visit require additional testing and may have restrictions for guests who are not up-to-date with their vaccines. 

Vaccines

All guests 12 years and older must be fully vaccinated, having received their final dose no less than 14 days prior to sailing.

Additionally, for the purpose of these Barcelona & Italy sailings, 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.

Children aged 5 to 11 years are not required to be vaccinated. However, kids who have been fully vaccinated may present proof and follow the protocols for vaccinated guests. Children with one dose of a vaccine do not count as fully vaccinated.

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

Entry requirements

Rome

All guests traveling to Spain will need to complete an FCS Health Control Form prior to entering Spain.

All guests ages 6 years and up traveling to Italy will need to complete an European Passenger Locator Form (PLF) prior to entering Italy.

Testing

Woman taking covid test

Pre-cruise from Spain

​Guests who are up-to-date with their vaccines will be required to present a negative test result for a COVID-19 test taken no more than 2 days before sailing.

Guests who are not up-to-date with their vaccines will be required to present a negative test result for a COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before sailing.

Embarkation from Spain

All unvaccinated guests ages 2 - 11 years will be required to take a boarding day antigen test in the terminal and receive a negative result in order to sail. 

Pre-cruise from Italy

All guests who are up-to-date with their vaccines will be required to present a negative test result for a COVID-19 test taken no more than 1 day before sailing.

Embarkation from Italy

All unvaccinated and not up-to-date guests ages 2 years and older will be required to take a boarding day antigen test in the terminal and receive a negative result in order to sail.

This test will be complimentary for children ages 2 - 11 years.

Guests ages 12 years and older who are considered unvaccinated or not up-to-date will be charged $55 USD per test.

Onboard testing

Royal Caribbean will begin offering consecutive cruisers at-home Covid tests | Royal Caribbean Blog

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.

This test is at the guest's expense if they are ages 12 years and up and considered unvaccinated or if they are not up-to-date at the price of $55 USD per test. These guests will receive registration information once onboard based on the below:

  • During the Cruise: Depending on the itinerary, guests 12 years and older — or 6 and older in Italian & Greek ports — will have additional testing requirements.
  • Prior to Disembarking sailings from Spain: Guests 12 and older who meet the above criteria will test before disembarking.
  • Prior to Disembarking sailings from Italy: Guests 6 years and older who meet the above criteria may be required to test before disembarking, based on the itinerary.

Guests under 2 years old are not required to test.

Masks

Mask guidance march 2022

Masks are optional for vaccinated guests and expected for onboard for unvaccinated children aged 2 years and older. 

Masks will be required in Adventure Ocean, in the cruise terminal, and may be required at various destinations.

These protocols are subject to change.

Shore 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 may require multiple tests to disembark in ports of call. All guests going ashore must still follow local health and safety guidance when visiting each port of call.

What travel documents to bring with you

Barcelona
  • Passport/European ID Card is needed for all guests with a validity of at least 6 months after their sailing’s return date. EU Nationals may also present their European ID card.
  • Proof of Vaccine must be presented by all guests 12 and older. Acceptable proof of vaccination must be in the form of the original vaccination record document issued by your country's health authority or healthcare provider that administered the vaccination, with the full cycle of doses being completed no less than 14 days prior to sailing. Guests living in the EU are advised to present their EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate.
  • Negative Test Result must be presented by all vaccinated guests upon arrival at the port.
  • For Spain: Negative Test Result must be presented by all vaccinated guests upon arrival at the port.
  • For Italy: Negative Test Result must be presented by all up-to-date guests upon arrival at the port
  • For Spain: FCS Health Control Form must be completed here by all guests age 12 and up before entering Spain.
  • For Italy: European Passenger Locator Form must be completed here by all guests ages 6 years and older before entering Italy.
  • Proof of Residency may be needed for guests traveling with a passport/European ID card that was issued from a country different from their country of residence.
  • Health Questionnaire to be completed on our Royal Caribbean App the day before you board.

Full protocols

More information

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. 

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