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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

Study: Cruise ships had 8,000 percent lower rate of Covid-19 hospitalizations compared to land

In:
18 Feb 2022

Cruise lines employ some of the toughest health protocols around, and that means a very unlikely chance you will get seriously sick on a ship.

Perhaps no other industry has been as hardly hit, and unfairly associated with, as the cruise lines have with Covid-19. Any sort of minor increase in Covid numbers has typically generated all sorts of negative media attention.

With the Omicron variant past peak, just how dangerous was it to go on a cruise during the pandemic?

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) provided analysis of recent data from the CDC of Covid cases on cruise ships taken during the height of the Omicron wave.

Analysis conducted by the PBI Research Institute, an independent, research-based consultancy in the energy, transport, and maritime sectors, determined that hospitalizations on cruise ships were 80 times lower than on land in the U.S. at the height of the Omicron surge.

During a two-week period covered by the PBI Research Institute analysis—from December 30, 2021 through January 12,  2022 — only five hospitalizations occurred out of more than 416,000 passengers and crew carried.

This is equivalent to 34 per 100,000 Covid-19 positive cases.  In stark contrast, during the same period, there were 269,067 new hospitalizations in the United States (equivalent to 2,786 per 100,000 Covid-19 positive cases), which is 80 times more than the rate onboard cruise ships during the time period.

Effective protocols

If you've been on a cruise, it probably comes as no surprise to hear there were few serious cases of Covid-19 onboard.

Cruise lines employ a multi-tiered approach to their protocols, which require all crew members to be fully vaccinated, and a vast majority of passengers to be vaccinated.

The PBI study concluded, "The low levels of severe Covid-19 cases that required hospitalization on ship is most likely due to the high vaccination rates among passengers on ships."

All crew members are tested regularly, and all lines require a pre-cruise Covid test from all passengers to be taken in order to sail.

Once onboard, mask wearing was adopted by all lines during the Omicron variant (some lines are relaxing that rule now).

Is the Johnson & Johnson vaccine still accepted by Royal? - Royal Caribbean Discussion - Royal Caribbean Blog

If there is a Covid case onboard, contact tracing is immediately conducted and testing of those people is completed.

In early February, Royal Caribbean Group reported they carried approximately 1.3 million guests since cruises restarted, and only had about 2,500 guests testing positive for Covid-19.

That represents a positivity rate of 0.19%.

Falling Covid-19 cases

Cruises Resuming | Royal Caribbean Blog

While the low hospitalizations are great to hear, the falling Covid numbers on cruise ships is even better news.

This study was conducted a few weeks ago when Covid cases were higher than they had been on ships. Since then, the amount of Covid cases on ships (and society as a whole) have dropped quite a bit.

South Florida Mayors ask Governor to lift ban on cruise ships asking for vaccine proof | Royal Caribbean Blog

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered its travel health notice for cruises from Level 4 to Level 3 this week due to falling Covid numbers onboard.

CDC spokeswoman Caitlin Shockey said in a statement the CDC lowered the warning in response to decreasing cases on ships operating in the United States.

This data matches up with statements made by Royal Caribbean executives a couple of weeks ago of what their ships were experiencing.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley told investors, "Certainly, we see now with with Omicron that the decrease in positivity is really significant not only in the U.S. and certain states, but also on board of our ships."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said cases on ships are now well below the height of the Omicron wave, "The good news is is that in the last several weeks, cases on board our ships have been declining rapidly and we now have returned to exceptionally low pre-Omicron levels."

CDC lowers warning level for Covid-19 on cruise ships

In:
15 Feb 2022

As hinted at over the last few weeks, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) lowered its warning for going on a cruise ship.

The warning has gone from Level 4 to a Level 3 warning of "Very High" to "High".

A level 3 warning means those not fully vaccinated for Covid-19 should avoid cruise ship travel, but does not go as far as warning against cruise ship travel for everyone.

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

It made the change based on its Travel Health Notice Level based on two factors:

  1. Cumulative new COVID-19 crew case counts over the past 14 days
  2. If cases among crew members are increasing, decreasing, or remaining the same.

A level 3 warning means cumulative new Covid-19 case counts over the past 14 days are between 1,000 - 2,000, and cumulative new symptomatic Covid-19 case counts over the past 14 days are between 500 - 999.

The CDC lowering the warning level was hinted at by Royal Caribbean executives in an earnings call with Wall Street investors on February 4.

At the time, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said he expected the change, "We also believe that in the not too distant future, the CDC Level four will be downgraded to Level three, and I think that will also be another positive step in the right direction."

Cruise industry reaction

Immediately after the warning was lowered, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a statement supporting the change.

CLIA was extremely vocal in its criticism of the CDC's policies towards the cruise industry recently, but said this new change is a "step in the right direction".

"The decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lower the Travel Health Notice threat level for cruise ships is a step in the right direction and recognizes the leadership and effectiveness of the cruise sector’s health and safety protocols that are unmatched by virtually any other commercial setting."

CLIA pointed to the fact the lowering of the warning is a direct result of the effective health protocols the cruise industry has employed to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, "Cruise ships  have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated.

"As a result, cases of COVID-19 are very low with the vast majority mild or asymptomatic—making cruise unequaled in its multi-layered approach to effectively mitigating COVID-19."

A change after harsher words

What it's like to go on a cruise with Royal Caribbean's stricter mask rules | Royal Caribbean Blog

The CDC lowered its warning for travel on a cruise ship less than a week after the cruise industry slammed the CDC's guidance update.

On February 9, the CDC unveiled the terms of its voluntary Covid-19 program for cruise ships to follow. It was met almost immediately by backlash from cruise lines that viewed it as out of touch with society's approach to Covid currently.

Despite Covid numbers falling precipitously on ships (and on land), the agency continued to urge the public against cruise ship travel for the fully vaccinated because in their view, the chances of getting COVID on a cruise ship is "very high".

CLIA went as far as to call out the CDC for being "unnecessarily discriminatory" against the cruise industry.

CLIA also said Covid-positive cases on cruise ships have seen a dramatic drop lately, and that Covid cases on cruise ships are 80 times lower than on land in the United States.

Cruise industry slams CDC for "discriminatory" view of likelihood of getting Covid on a cruise ship

In:
09 Feb 2022

The cruise industry is lashing out at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for their latest guidance against cruise ship travel.

CDC headquarters

On February 9, the CDC updated the notice to clarify the modifications of CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. Waters.

Despite Covid numbers falling precipitously on ships (and on land), the agency continued to urge the public against cruise ship travel for the fully vaccinated because in their view, the chances of getting COVID on a cruise ship is "very high".

In a statement by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry rejected this notion and called out the CDC for being "unnecessarily discriminatory against
cruise to maintain that the chances of getting COVID-19 on a cruise “is very high” even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines."

Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have adopted highly effective protocols for passengers and crew members on its ships that that test all persons boarding, have medical, isolation and quarantine facilities on site, implement extensive response plans using only private shoreside resources, and have created an environment where almost every single person is fully vaccinated.

According to CLIA, the result has been has been a dramatic drop in the number of COVID-positive cases, with hospitalizations being extraordinarily rare – in fact 80 times
lower than on land in the U.S. 

This data was backed up by Royal Caribbean Group's CEO Jason Liberty when he said over the last several weeks, cases onboard have been "declining rapidly."

Despite these facts, the CDC continues to maintain even if you are fully vaccinated, the chances of getting COVID on a cruise ship is very high.

"Regrettably, upon initial review, the latest CDC guidance appears out of step with the actual public health conditions on cruise ships and unnecessary in light of societal trends away from more restrictive measures.

"We are confounded by the CDC’s imposition of even more complex and unwarranted measures which ignore empirical evidence that the industry’s protocols have provided a greater level of COVID mitigation than most any other setting.

CLIA says misleading statements by the CDC on the state of Covid on a cruise ship creates confusion for consumers, and creates potential problems within the different sectors of travel the cruise industry operates.

In short, CLIA feels the CDC is targeting the cruise lines in its recommendations, "It seems unnecessarily discriminatory against cruise to maintain that the chances of getting COVID-19 on a cruise “is very high” even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines."

CLIA even went as far as to say the CDC's actions against cruise ships are counterproductive to promoting the importance of Covid-19 vaccines to the general public, "This discounts the importance of what the CDC has otherwise promoted as the single most important touchstone for public health and safety."

"The vaccination rate on cruise ships is close to 100%, whereas on land it is only about 63%."

You can read the full CLIA statement here:

Why does the CDC not warn against other travel and entertainment?

NBA Basketball game on February 9, 2022

Often the CDC has been accused of holding the cruise lines to a double standard when compared to other forms of shoreside travel and entertainment settings (such as restaurants, bars, and theme parks).

On the CDC's website, it now explains that cruise ships are "congregate residential settings" with high risk of COVID-19 transmission among travelers (passengers and crew).

In case you're wondering, this means the CDC thinks examples of "congregate residential settings" are prisons, nursing homes, schools, and shelters.

Source: CDC

"Cruise ships have thousands of travelers living for multiple days (or months for crew) on the same ship—eating, sleeping, and participating in activities together in one location. These factors are not typically found in other shoreside travel and entertainment settings (such as restaurants, bars, theme parks). Data from the pandemic suggest COVID-19 spreads quickly in group settings, including on cruise ships. Hence, CDC developed COVID-19 THN criteria specific to cruise ships to inform the public regarding COVID-19 conditions on cruise ships."

It then went on to pass the buck of saying those other shoreside travel and entertainment settings in the United States are regulated by public health agencies on a state and local level.

Royal Caribbean will end stricter face mask rules on its cruise ships

In:
09 Feb 2022

With Omicron cases on cruise ships plummeting, Royal Caribbean will not extend its stricter face mask rules and will allow them to end.

In mid-December Royal Caribbean tightened its face mask protocols due to the increase of Covid-19 cases around the world due to the Omicron variant.

Specifically, face masks were required to be worn indoors at all times, unless actively eating or drinking. This included vaccinated-only zones.

Beginning February 15, 2022, the stricter mask rules will go away and that means guests will not have to wear face masks at venues designated for vaccinated guests only, such as select bars, lounges, restaurants, shows and Casino Royale. 

Woman wearing a mask in front of cruise ship

During a webinar with travel agents, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, told travel agents the policy was changed yesterday, and beginning February 15, 2022 the stricter mask rules will go away.

"One thing that changed yesterday is we have now announced that in our casinos you will not be required to wear masks and you can smoke again in the smoking areas of the casino," Ms. Freed told travel agents.

Royal Caribbean International Assistant Vice President of Guest Experience, Aurora Yera-Rodriguez, told travel agents protocols will go back to the way they were before the stricter mask rules were added due to Omicron, "After February the 15th, we'll now allow smoking in the casino again. That is actually aligned, with us going back to protocol the way they were before, where you don't have to wear a mask in vaccinated areas."

"We'll go back to the way it was before on Omicron."

"As of right now, we did not push that additional mask restriction and casino smoking out to guests beyond the 15th. So hopefully we're in a good spot."

Masks are NOT required to be worn:

  • In open-air areas of the ship, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • In the pool or any activity where they may become wet.
  • At venues designated for vaccinated guests only, such as select bars, lounges, restaurants, shows and Casino Royale. NOTE: For cruises departing through February 14, 2022, masks must be worn in vaccinated-only venues
  • In your stateroom when you are with your traveling party.
  • While visiting our private destinations, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • By any guest under the age of 2.

Masks ARE required to be worn:

  • While indoors in public areas of the ship, unless seated and actively eating or drinking.
  • While visiting public ports of call, where local regulations may require them.

Falling Covid cases on ships

What it's like to go on a cruise with Royal Caribbean's stricter mask rules | Royal Caribbean Blog

The change in protocols coincides with Covid cases onboard falling back to pre-Omicron levels.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty told investors last week that ship cases are significantly lower than the last two months, "In the last several weeks, cases on board our ships have been declining rapidly and we now have returned to exceptionally low pre-Omicron levels."

Over the last seven days, Royal Caribbean Group has averaged only "a handful of positive guest cases per cruise."

Other cruise lines relaxing protocols

Royal Caribbean's announcement comes a day after Norwegian Cruise Line said it would end its Omicron protocols as well.

NCL said beginning March 1, masks will no longer be required while indoors. Instead, they will be recommended.

Another change is NCL will now allow children under 5 years old to sail if they are unvaccinated, beginning on March 5.

In addition, NCL will require its passengers to test once at home before the cruise begins in an effort to speed up the check-in process.

"Worst is behind us": Royal Caribbean sees Omicron cases plummet on cruise ships

In:
04 Feb 2022

Covid-19 cases on Royal Caribbean Group's cruise ships from the Omicron variant are on the downswing.

Royal Caribbean Blog - Unofficial blog about Royal Caribbean cruises

During Royal Caribbean Group's fourth quarter earnings call on Friday, cruise line executives talked about the relative low amount of Covid cases onboard cruise ships compared to society on land, as well as the fact cases are dropping as Omicron passes its peak.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty opened the call with investors by talking about the past quarter, and talked about how well its health protocols have been at keeping the vast majority of its passengers safe.

The cruise industry was firmly in the cross hairs of national media coverage last month when Covid cases began to go up onboard.

While the media was fixated on new cases on ships for a couple weeks, since then, cases have dropped significantly. Few media outlets have bothered to update their audience on that improvement with the same tenacity as the negative coverage.

Mr. Liberty proudly shared the precipitous drop in cases, "The good news is is that in the last several weeks, cases on board our ships have been declining rapidly and we now have returned to exceptionally low pre-Omicron levels."

Mailbag: What are the chances my cruise will sail? | Royal Caribbean Blog

He shared that over the last seven days, Royal Caribbean Group has averaged only "a handful of positive guest cases per cruise."

Mr. Liberty said that while Omicron was "particularly painful," it appears as though that is behind the company, "while the variant is not done, it appears that the worst is behind us."

Top untrue myths about Omicron variant and going on a cruise ship right now | Royal Caribbean Blog

With Omicron either peaking or past peak, new cruise ship bookings are up again.

"In the last week of January, bookings returned to pre-Omicron levels," Mr. Liberty shared. "We expect demand recovery to accelerate as the variant subsides."

Powerful protocols

Royal Caribbean says Omicron variant fears have only had a short-term effect on bookings | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Liberty credits the fact that Covid cases have remained lower onboard cruise ships compared to cases on land to the protocols Royal Caribbean Group has embraced.

"Our rigorous health and safety protocols, with 100 percent vaccination rate among our crew, and close to 100 percent vaccination rate among our guests, provide a safe environment where we can fulfill our mission of delivering amazing vacations."

"Our goal has been to making cruising one of the safest vacations anywhere in the world while providing an exceptional guest experience."

How to avoid the 8 things everyone hates doing on a cruise ship | Royal Caribbean Blog

The company has been able to achieve that goal in carrying approximately 1.3 million guests since cruises restarted, and only having about 2,500 guests testing positive for Covid-19.

That represents a positivity rate of 0.19%.

"This positivity rate is still a small fraction of what it is in society at large, and nearly all cases on board were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms."

Why you shouldn't cancel your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Liberty went on to point out the fact cruise line health protocols far surpass hotel and resorts protocols, "A few weeks ago, the prescriptive CDC Conditional Sail Order expired, demonstrating the agency's confidence in the overall effectiveness of the health and safety protocols of the cruise industry."

"Our own protocols continue to go above and beyond anything the framework provided and what consumers will find in any hospitality setting."

When will health protocols go away?

What you need to know about going on a cruise if you're Canadian | Royal Caribbean Blog

In case you missed our other article about it, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley talked about when health protocols could be rolled back.

He thinks as Covid cases continue to drop, Royal Caribbean will work with the CDC to remove protocols, "I think what we'll see is as we get into that environment, we'll start working with the CDC."

"We'll start removing many of the protocols that exist today, and it'll become easier and simpler for our customers."

Booking trends of new cruiser vs repeat cruisers

Royal Caribbean Kids Sail Free 2021-2022 Dates & Tips | Royal Caribbean Blog

Another question Wall Street investors wanted to know is booking trends between new cruisers and core customers.

Mr. Bayley explained right before Omicron, booking numbers were getting quite strong, "as we moved into the fourth quarter of last year, our bookings started to exceed 2019 levels, both in volume and rate."

Both with the Delta and Omicron variants, the repeat customer would buoy new bookings considerably, as those new to cruise slowly regained confidence to book a vacation.

CDC begins posting public comments on cruise ships starting up | Royal Caribbean Blog

"As it relates to new to cruise and loyalty, loyalty certainly led the way....new to cruise lagged, I would say, four to six weeks when we look at our data."

"When we came out of Delta, loyalty was at the beginning skewed heavily and then and then new to cruise started to jump back in and it started to even out back to normal levels."

Mr. Bayley thinks Royal Caribbean International is particularly attractive to new cruisers in the United States because of the new ships combined with short cruises.

He also thinks Perfect Day at CocoCay plays a major role in attracting new cruisers, "We've got Perfect Day, as we know, an incredibly popular destination and that already is generating significant demand with a premium with new to cruise."

In short, Mr. Bayley feels new to cruise bookings are lagging coming out of Omicron, but they feel confident it's coming back based on what happened with the Delta variant.

Wall Street also wanted to know who is cancelling cruises, and not surprisingly, cancellations are tied to covid cases.

Mr. Liberty explained, "The majority of the people canceling were people who either tested positive for Covid before getting on sailing or somebody in their family who was traveling with them tested positive for Covid."

"We did see some of our customers shift their bookings from late December, early January into future periods."

Royal Caribbean sees many Covid-19 protocols going away once cases drop

In:
04 Feb 2022

As Covid cases subside, so too might Royal Caribbean's health protocols.

During a call with investors on Friday, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley answered a question about when protocols might go away.

The investor said since there are likely people who do not want to cruise because of testing or mask mandates, so he wanted to know what would be the impetus for Royal Caribbean to roll back those mandates.

Royal Caribbean currently requires a number of health protocols for passengers on its ships, including wearing of face masks while indoors, pre-cruise testing, social distancing and reduced ship capacity.

Mr. Bayley said that the health protocols provided a lot of reassurance during the height of the pandemic, but as countries begin to roll back restrictions, Royal Caribbean will also move towards a "new normal".

"Certainly, we see now with with Omicron that the decrease in positivity is really significant not only in the U.S. and certain states, but also on board of our ships."

Texas joins lawsuit against CDC to get cruises restarted | Royal Caribbean Blog

As a result of the lower case counts, Mr. Bayley thinks Royal Caribbean will work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to remove protocols.

"We believe that we're going to move into a much more positive environment. I think what we'll see is as we get into that environment, we'll start working with the CDC.

"We'll start removing many of the protocols that exist today, and it'll become easier and simpler for our customers."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said the company's focus remains on keeping guests and crew members safe at all times, "we're following the science, and based off of that, we're making changes to our protocols... to kind of help ensure that our guests and our crew are safe at all times."

Lowering the CDC warning

Mr. Bayley said he felt "quite positive" about the direction of Covid and its impact on cruise ships. In fact, Mr. Bayley indicated he thinks the CDC may change its stance on cruise ships and Covid.

On December 30, 2021, the CDC raised its warning against going on a cruise ship to its highest level, level 4.

The federal agency recommended avoiding cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status.

Mr. Bayley believes that warning will go away in the not too distant future.

"We also believe that in the not too distant future, the CDC Level four will be downgraded to Level three, and I think that will also be another positive step in the right direction."

Health expert shares advice for going on a cruise ship amid Omicron

In:
31 Jan 2022

Going on a cruise ship means new challenges, but how can you balance vacation fun with best health practices?

What it's like on 4 cruises in a row during Omicron | Royal Caribbean Blog

Covid-19 has changed not just the protocols onboard cruise ships, but how guests approach vacation.  So what should you do to better protect yourself along the way?

Since I'm not any kind of health expert, I reached out to Dr. Anthony Harris, M.D, M.B.A, M.P.H. to share his recommendations.

Dr. Harris is the CEO of Hfit Health, where he focuses on how to keep the workforce healthy and the public in general healthy from an exposure standpoint. His company has worked as a corporate medical director with multiple Fortune 50 Fortune 100 companies during the pandemic.

Most importantly, Dr. Harris has kept tabs on the best ways to travel safely with updated regulations.

Wear a K95 mask

Face masks on Royal Caribbean: What you need to know | Royal Caribbean Blog

Since face masks are required by Royal Caribbean (and other cruise lines) while indoors, your best bet is wear a K95 or KN95 mask.

While these masks are meant to be disposable, Dr. Harris says it's possible to wear them multiple times, "If we're talking about how long, it depends on how often and what environment you're wearing the mask. If they become soiled with either water or different materials, then you want to evaluate and make sure that it's not preventing the mask from performing normally."

"If your mask has not been any tremendous soil scenario, throw it in a paper bag and it'll be nice and fresh for you in the morning."

Moreover, you want to ensure you have enough masks for the entire cruise, "Don't bring just one. Bring some backups."

Read moreMy best advice for going on a cruise ship in early 2022 during Omicron

Social distancing

What's it like to cruise right now? | Royal Caribbean Blog

While Royal Caribbean has instituted changes onboard its cruise ships to keep passengers spaced apart, you can avoid being close to other people when possible.

"Be mindful that if you don't have to be elbow and elbow with someone as you're sitting and talking about and enjoying the the views over the bow."

Prioritize being outdoors

Navigator of the Seas Live Blog - Day 2 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

When possible, try to spend more time outside than inside.

"We know that being outdoors dramatically decreases your risk of transmission," Dr. Harris recommended. "You're outdoors, you can be a little bit more open in terms of your social distancing and your risk goes down."

First look around Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Dr. Harris said the reason why being outdoors is important is air movement. Covid is an airborne illness, and Dr. Harris says studies have shown the more air movement you have, the better you are in regards to your risk of transmission.

While you are indoors, Royal Caribbean has already adopted an air flow strategy that mirrors what Dr. Harris recommends, "a standard that we use in health care and facilities is about six times an hour."

New study shows "exceptionally low" risk of airborne particles on cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean adjusted shipboard settings to allow for the maximum air changes per hour and upgrading to MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) 13 filters throughout the system. 

In fact, Royal Caribbean says outside air is pulled in as existing air indoors is exhausted on the opposite side of the ship 15-20 times per hour (and up to 12 times in staterooms). That's twice more than what Dr. Harris recommended.

The bottom line for Dr. Harris is just being aware of your surroundings, " be mindful, but don't be fearful, particularly when you're in those settings where you have adequate air movement to reduce your risk."

Read moreNew study shows "exceptionally low" risk of airborne particles on cruise ships

Let the crew know if you aren't feeling well

How Royal Caribbean provides medical care at sea | Royal Caribbean Blog

If you should start feeling less than great, you call the medical center onboard.

"Don't hesitate if you should start having any symptoms whatsoever to go and get tested while you're on the cruise."

"You're going to protect the everyone else that's on the on the cruise with you, and you're going to allow the majority of people to enjoy their time without concern or fear around transmission."

Read more: What happens after testing positive for Covid on Royal Caribbean cruise ship

Myth: Should you take an antigen test if you recently had Covid?

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: September 5, 2021 | Royal Caribbean Blog

I asked Dr. Harris about a concern a number of cruise fans have about testing positive well after recovering from Covid in a PCR test.

RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com reader Mark Elliott posted last week on our message boards what to do about taking a test months after you had Covid without getting a positive result.

Other readers recommended an antigen test instead of a PCR test, but is that a good idea?

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

Dr. Harris confirmed Mark's initial concern, "PCR can show that someone is positive for COVID beyond their period of infective infectiousness."

"If you're 10 days after the onset of your symptoms, you are generally no longer infected or infectious. And that's the standard that CDC still has that we use in the clinical community."

If you're past the 10 day period, Dr. Harris said an antigen test is fine, "After that 10 day period, if you can show, and if it's acceptable, a negative rapid test, that's okay."

"Because, again, you're not putting people at risk if you're outside that that time window in terms of exposure to others."

Should you test after your cruise is over?

Do the free Covid tests the U.S. government is giving away work for a Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Assuming you go through your cruise vacation and get home without feeling sick at all, should you still take a Covid test?

Dr. Harris says the answer depends on your situation, "Should everyone test as soon as they get home? Perhaps not."

"You live alone. You're not going to be around anybody with vulnerable predispositions, then you may not need to test."

"But certainly, if you're coming home to grandma and your 90 year old mother or somebody with pre-existing condition...then it's reasonable to go ahead and test."

Rapid COVID-19 tests now available at New York airports | Royal Caribbean Blog

When should you test exactly after your cruise? Dr. Harris says a test immediately and a few days later makes sense.

He recommends a test when you get home, and then again three days later.

Dr. Harris emphasized testing after the cruise is only necessary for some people, not for everybody, but definitely consider it if you have people in your household who may have pre-existing conditions."

What should you do if you test positive before or after the cruise?

I had to cancel my cruise because I caught Covid, here's what happened | Royal Caribbean Blog

What if you take your Covid test before the cruise and you test positive before you ever board?

Dr. Harris says the first thing to do is test again, "Is it a true positive? There are still some false positives out there. And so consider getting a second test."

If the second test comes back positive again, then you want to quarantine yourself.  Dr. Harris recommends looking for an Airbnb instead of a hotel room for the comfort level it provides.

2022 Royal Caribbean Cruise Planning Guide | Royal Caribbean Blog

"Certainly protecting others in that scenario means you're not getting on the plane to travel back to your house while you have a positive result from Covid, staying in place, and using the new guidelines."

After five days, if you test again and you're negative, you're good to travel home.

Read moreI had to cancel my cruise because I caught Covid, here's what happened

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