Alt Text!

Will Royal Caribbean require kids to be vaccinated in order to go on a cruise ship?

In:
12 Nov 2021

Now that the Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for kids under 12, many want to know if Royal Caribbean will require kids to be vaccinated in order to sail.

Royal Caribbean won't accept mixed vaccines as being fully vaccinated | Royal Caribbean Blog

Ever since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved vaccines for 5-11 year-olds, cruise fans have wanted to know what Royal Caribbean might do.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain was asked at a media event aboard Odyssey of the Seas on Friday if they would require kids to be vaccinated as well.

Mr. Fain said he thinks there will be an update to the protocols soon, but the cruise line has no change yet to announce for vaccine requirements.

"I think we will be coming out with protocols for the smaller children soon," Mr. Fain explained.

"Now that they've authorized vaccines down to the five, we're looking at how that's going to affect us."

Mr. Fain went on to talk about changes in protocols, and how while masks are required onboard Royal Caribbean ships, the reality is the time someone needs to wear a mask actively is around 20% of the time (thanks to vaccinated zones and outdoor areas).

Richard Fain | Royal Caribbean Blog

"I think we're moving in the direction where every cruise will have 100 percent of the crew vaccinated and ninety five or more percent of the guests."

A follow-up question was asked by a travel agent about the notion of selling a Royal Caribbean cruise to a family in January or February. Mr. Fain responded he thinks there will still be room for unvaccinated kids onboard.

"Probably by then we'll still be, if they don't want to vaccinate their children. I would still encourage them to do so. The vaccines are simply so effective and so safe that they owe it to the children and they owe it to their friends and loved ones to do so. But I don't think we're about to implement that requirement because the only just became available."

Safer than Walmart

Harmony of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

In talking about the vaccine requirements, Mr. Fain referenced a recent article by USA Today that indicated cruise ships health protocols are proving to be extremely effective.

CDC data shows not only are have there been very few cases this summer on cruise ships in the United States, but cruisers feel more secure with the protocols in place on a ship than they do visiting other businesses with little to no protocols.

"We have cases on board just as you have cases everywhere. But the cases are handled easily, efficiently and people are taken care of, and it doesn't spread. So we don't have these big outbreaks onboard."

Royal Caribbean produces video where masks are required on Quantum of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain called that a "dramatic change" for the cruise industry, because many in the public never thought it would happen and certainly not as quickly as it has compared to other segments of society.

Fain pointed to the vaccines as the major factor in making cruise ships so safe, "I think the reason we're seeing that is because the vaccines work and because they are preventing the spread."

Don't expect a change after January 15

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval for Independence of the Seas to sail | Royal Caribbean Blog

Some have speculated that once the CDC's Conditional Sailing Order becomes voluntary on January 15, 2022, that protocols will erode or go away quickly. Mr. Fain rejected that notion.

"I want to make it clear the controlling protocols today in almost every case, not every case, but almost every case is our own standards, not the CDC. We are acting significantly in excess of CDC requirements. And I actually don't expect January 15th when they have said that they would go through a purely voluntary program that will have any noticeable impact on us."

Mr. Fain said they worked hard to make cruises safe, and they are not going to abandon what has been working.

In terms of the pre-cruise testing, Mr. Fain said it is his preference to allow everyone three days instead of two days to get a negative test, but a lot of those decisions are based on what is happening in society.

"There are two days and we would much prefer it to be three. And that is one constraint that the CDC has imposed on us. We're not sure that the science supports that."

"You've seen how quickly it's changed over the last two months, and I think it will continue to quickly change, especially if we start getting more people vaccinated."

"I think we need to get through the winter months because the winter months traditionally resulted in an upsurge as people have people who aren't lucky enough to live in Florida who have to go indoors."

Royal Caribbean releases cruise ship health protocols for sailings through March 2022

In:
10 Nov 2021

Royal Caribbean has released its health protocols for cruise ships sailing in Winter 2021 for the longest period of time yet.

The new protocols apply to Royal Caribbean sailings from Puerto Rico, Barbados and U.S. homeports through March 31, 2022. 

Previously, Royal Caribbean was releasing health protocols only a month at a time.

Royal Caribbean added that it expects health protocols to change over time. Guidance for other ports and sailings is still in development with federal, state, and local authorities. 

These protocols govern the rules and requirements passengers can expect if they want to go on a cruise between now and March 31, 2022.

Vaccination

Celebrity Cruises will accept mixed vaccines following CDC update | Royal Caribbean Blog

Royal Caribbean will require all passengers who are 12 years and older to be fully vaccinated in order to sail.

All guests 12 years and older must bring proof of vaccination, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination record card, with the final dose of the vaccine completed at least 14 days prior to sailing.

For guests departing from Florida homeports, this vaccine requirement is the policy of several international governments for a cruise ship to enter their waters. 

Testing

Depending on where your ship departs from, the exact requirement for a pre-cruise test will vary:

Testing for sailings from U.S. Homeports 

  • Pre-Cruise: All guests 2 years and older must present a negative PCR or antigen test result.
  • Vaccinated guests ages 12 years and over, test must be taken no more than 2 days prior to sailing. Guests under the age of 12, who are considered fully vaccinated, should follow the guidance for vaccinated guests. 
    • Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 11 years, test must be taken no more than 3 days prior to sailing — but not on boarding day.
    • No testing required for guests under age 2 years.
    • Pre-cruise testing costs and scheduling are the guest's responsibility.
  • Embarkation Day: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years will take a complimentary PCR test for COVID-19 during check-in. Registration details will be sent via email in advance.
  • Onboard: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years will take a complimentary antigen test prior to debarking. Depending on sailing length, there may be additional testing. Registration details will be provided onboard.

Testing for sailings from San Juan, Puerto Rico

  • Entry to Puerto Rico:
    • All guests unvaccinated guests 2 years and older will need a PCR or antigen test for entry.
    • Guests arriving from non-US countries (regardless of vaccination status) will need a PCR or antigen test for entry.
    • Guests flying in or connecting should check the Puerto Rico’s entry rules.
  • Pre-Cruise
    • Vaccinated guests must present a negative PCR or antigen test result taken no more than 48 hours prior to sailing in order to board. If for any reason your clients can’t arrange this test prior to sailing, we have port testing available for scheduling here.
    • Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 11 years must present a negative PCR test result taken no more than 72 hours prior to sailing in order to board. There continues to be no testing required for guests under age 2.
    • Proper documentation (printed negative test results or negative test results presented on your phone) from an accredited laboratory (no doctor’s notes) is required to sail. All costs for this test are the guest's responsibility and must be done on their own, not at the terminal.
  • At the terminal: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years are required to take a PCR test for COVID-19 when checking in at the terminal. Registration details for this test will be sent via email in advance. This test is complimentary.
  • Prior to disembarking: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years are required to take an antigen test onboard within 24 hours before the cruise ends. Registration details will be provided during your cruise. This test is complimentary.
    • For re-entry into one's home country, guests may require proof of a negative COVID-19 test. If needed, we’ll offer complimentary testing on Day 5 or 6 of the cruise. Testing details will be provided onboard.
  • No testing is required for guests under age 2.

Vaccinations & Testing Requirements for sailings from Bridgetown, Barbados 

What you need to know about visiting Barbados on a cruise ship | Royal Caribbean Blog

Grandeur of the Seas will begin sailing from Barbados in December 2021, and it has its own set of protocols for sailings from here.

Due to the requirements of destinations on  Barbados itineraries, Royal Caribbean can only accept vaccines that are authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Guests under the age of 12 years, who are considered fully vaccinated, should follow the guidance for vaccinated guests below. Children with one dose of a vaccine do not count as fully vaccinated for the purpose of our sailing. The only mixed MRNA vaccines accepted are combinations of Pfizer and Moderna.

  • Entry to Barbados: Guests must follow Barbados’ COVID-19 Travel Guidelines. All guests 5 years and older — regardless of vaccination status — must present a negative PCR test result taken no more than 3 days prior to arriving in Barbados. 
  • Pre-cruise: All unvaccinated guests 2 - 11 years old must present a negative PCR test result no more than 3 days prior to sailing. The PCR test used for entry satisfies this pre-cruise test requirement as long as its within 3 days of sailing date.
    • The PCR test used for entry satisfies this pre-cruise test requirement as long as its within 3 days of sailing date.
    • If PCR test results are older than 3 days, guests will have to secure their own PCR test while in Barbados.
    • The terminal antigen test does not satisfy unvaccinated guests’ pre-cruise testing requirement. 
    • Barbados does not accept telehealth home test kits for the entry test, even if the test is supervised by a live telehealth professional. No self testing method is accepted.
  • Pre-cruise testing costs and scheduling are the guest's responsibility.
  • At the terminal: All guests 2 and older — regardless of vaccination status — are required to take a complimentary embarkation day antigen test and receive a negative test result. Registration details will be sent via email in advance for the antigen test at the terminal.
    No testing required for guests under age 2
  • Prior to Disembarking: Guests 5 and older (regardless of vaccination status) planning to tour Barbados before making their way to the airport or enjoy an extended stay in Barbados shoreside, are required to undergo additional testing.
    • Guests that go directly to the airport, on their own or through an RCI tour, will not be required to undergo any testing onboard. 
  • For re-entry into your home country, guests may require proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Testing details and options will be provided onboard at guests' expense.

Shore Excursions

How to book a Royal Caribbean shore excursion | Royal Caribbean Blog

Families traveling with unvaccinated kids are required to purchase a tour through Royal Caribbean to go ashore (except at Perfect Day at CocoCay).

Fully vaccinated parties may book a shore excursion or visit most ports freely — with the exception of those listed below, which will require tours for all guests who wish to go ashore in November and December, regardless of their vaccination status: St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, Antigua, Tobago, Trinidad, Grenada, Martinique, Dominica & St. Vincent. 

For Barbados
All guests on December sailings from Barbados will need to book a tour if they wish to go ashore in ports of call, regardless of vaccination status. 

Masks

Masks are required in the terminal, in select locations inside the ship, and may be required at various destinations.

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 and shows
  • In your stateroom when you are with your traveling party
  • While visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay, unless you are in a crowded setting
  • By any guest under the age of 2

CDC will require everyone to wear face masks on cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Masks ARE required to be worn:

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

Your mask should be at least two layers of tight weave fabric with loops that fit over your ears in accordance with health guidelines. The mask should fit your face closely and cover your nose and mouth but allow you to breathe easily. Note that neck gaiters, open chin bandanas and scarves, and face masks with valves do not meet health authority guidelines and will not be permitted.

Dining

How to request your favorite foods be prepared in the main dining room on your Royal Caribbean cruise | Royal Caribbean Blog

For Main Dining, Royal Caribbean will designate areas for everyone, including parents and unvaccinated children, and areas for vaccinated parties only.

My Time Dining will not be available to parties that include unvaccinated guests.

Some specialty restaurants will be open to everyone, while others will be for vaccinated parties only. 

Email with protocols

Here is a full copy of the protocols shared by Royal Caribbean with travel agents.

Royal Caribbean talks higher capacity, protocol changes, world cruise and more

In:
30 Oct 2021

Royal Caribbean Group's third quarter earnings call on Friday with analysts was full of tidbits that provided insight into what cruise fans and Wall Street investors alike should expect in the coming months.

After releasing its quarterly financials, a trio of Royal Caribbean Group executives took questions from investment firms about the company's health. Included on the call were:

  • Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain
  • Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty
  • Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley

While the call primarily dealt with discussing fiscal health and the financial outlook, some answers gave operational insight that is of interest to cruise ship guests.

Royal Caribbean prioritized ships back in service over capacity

What happens if a cruise is oversold above reduced capacity? | Royal Caribbean Blog

There was a conscientious effort by Royal Caribbean to get more cruise ships back in service first, over trying to max out how full the ships were.

Anyone who went on a cruise this summer and fall definitely noticed the limited capacity onboard, which was almost always well before half full.

Mr. Fain talked about why they wanted more ships back sooner, "Like the pilot of a plane during takeoff, prioritizing speed over altitude, we have prioritized spreading the wealth."

"We have prioritized starting up more ships even with lower loads per vessel, rather than trying for higher load factors on fewer ships. We have been executing this in a financially and medically prudent manner."

Top 8 things you should know about going on a cruise in 2021 | Royal Caribbean Blog

He pointed out that in January 2022 the major booking season for cruise begins, and Royal Caribbean Group wants their core markets operating normally as quickly as possible. He believes with as many ships as they have ready to go in January, this will position the company well financially.

"That will put us in an excellent position to have a good wave period. Our bookings are already showing that the public has a great deal of pent up demand and is eager to travel again. We have a long period of poor bookings to make up for, but current booking trends give us a high level of confidence for 2022, especially from the summer on."

Royal Caribbean has been quietly increasing the capacity of its ships even as early as October, as evidenced by cruise passengers who reported seeing sailings with more than 50% capacity.

First Royal Caribbean test cruise should begin today | Royal Caribbean Blog

During the call, Mr. Bayley mentioned Freedom of the Seas sailed at 85% occupancy.

"We've brought back significantly more capacity, ships, beds and berths, than any of our competitors by a significant amount. And what that means is that operationally and logistically, we've already climbed over that mountain and we've now got a large number of our assets available for booking. And more importantly, we've now gone through and absorbed all of those expenses."

So when might Royal Caribbean truly get back to full capacity across the board?

Mr. Liberty said somewhere around summer 2022 is the plan for now, "We are kind of preparing our business to maximize our revenues and profitability in this very kind of lucrative peak summer season."

Future of protocols

CDC wants cruise lines to reconsider mask policies on cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

One of the major obstacles to get more customers back on cruise ships are the Covid-19 protocols that are necessary right now, either as mandated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or by the cruise line.  So when will those change?

One investor asked Royal Caribbean how they were thinking about vaccine mandates across different age demographics into next year.

In replying, Mr. Bayley provided a glimpse into Royal Caribbean's relationship with the CDC, as well as when protocols could change.

CDC gives cruise lines relaxed face mask guidelines and issues new rules for vaccinated passengers | Royal Caribbean Blog

"I think what's what's happened over this past several months is that we've really got a a focused, collaborative effort and we found the relationship with the CDC has been very constructive."

"While the CSO comes to a kind of a technical end on January the 15th, we will continue our ongoing collaboration with the CDC in terms of the protocols that will voluntarily operate after the CSO expires."

"They certainly, and we, want to make sure that we're operating safely and they're also well aware that some of the protocols that we have in place will naturally fall away as the pandemic moves further and further in the rearview mirror."

"I think as we move into '22, hopefully what we'll see is is the protocols become easier and less cumbersome for our customers."

World Cruise selling extremely well

Royal Caribbean announced its first world cruise to sail in 2023, and if you were wondering who would realistically book a 9 month cruise that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, the answer was clearly a lot of people.

Within the first 10 days, the cruise was only bookable by repeat cruise guests, and Mr. Bayley indicated already it is 70% booked.

"Within seven days we were 70 percent booked and the average price of a balcony room is $75000 for the balcony. The Royal Suite sold within a week at $760000, and all of these suites have booked with non-refundable deposit."

Mr. Bayley admitted they were surprised how well it sold, "Even we were taken aback by the unbelievable response of our royalty customers. The fact that within a week we were 70 percent booked on a ship that carries around 2,100 guests and is on a nine month world cruise was just remarkable, and I think that's indicative of what we're we're seeing."

Port project update

Report: Royal Caribbean targeting January 2023 opening of Royal Beach Club in Nassau, Bahamas | Royal Caribbean Blog

One investor asked Royal Caribbean for an update on its port projects that it had announced before the pandemic.

Mr. Bayley reiterated some of the short term projects that are still moving ahead, "We did obviously have a plan in place. Pre-pandemic, we pressed pause. We're now re-engaging on all of those plans in the immediate future."

Royal Caribbean will expand Perfect Day at CocoCay with Hideaway Beach | Royal Caribbean Blog

Hideaway Beach

"We have an expansion taking place in perfect day with the addition of Hideaway Beach, which is a new experience that will open in late '22 for Perfect Day."

"The beauty of Hideaway Beach is that it is an adult only area as part of Perfect Day. It will allow us to increase our capacity by approximately 3000 people a day in late 22, which is, you know, obviously going to help improve our overall profitability and drive more more revenue, both both ticket and on board."

Royal Caribbean could finish Nassau Beach Club by May 2023 | Royal Caribbean Blog

Nassau Beach Club

"We're close to finalizing the design and construction plans and the approvals for Beach Club in Nassau, which were we're hoping to start work on that very soon."

New renderings released of Royal Caribbean's new cruise terminal in Galveston | Royal Caribbean BlogGalveston terminal

"We've got a Galveston terminal that's opening in '22 and that will accommodate our Oasis class ships and then future Icon. And of course, that gives us remarkable access into the Texas, Oklahoma and that whole region as a market for drive into."

Royal Caribbean extends ability to cancel cruises, shortens final payment window, and extends Covid-19 assistance program

In:
29 Oct 2021

Anyone with a Royal Caribbean cruise booked for early 2022 will now have more flexibility in changing plans, as well as when they have to pay it.

Royal Caribbean informed travel agents on Friday of a number of changes related to guest-facing programs, many of which have been well-received by guests.

Here is a breakdown of the major changes just announced.

More time to cancel cruise for a credit

The Cruise with Confidence program has been extended yet again.

The Cruise with Confidence program  will expand to reservations confirmed on or before December 17, 2021 and sailing through April 30, 2022.

This program allows guests to cancel a cruise up to 48 hours before their sail date with no penalty in exchange for a 100% Future Cruise Credit.

 

Cruise with Confidence was introduced at the beginning of the cruise industry shutdown in 2020, and was designed to give guests peace of mind that they can change their plans after final payment date.

Ordinarily, guests would incur a penalty for canceling a sailing beyond the final payment date, which is typically 90 days before a sailing commences. Cruise with Confidence provides a great deal more flexibility to change minds with no penalty.

Included with this extension is the Best Price Guarantee, which allows guests to reprice their sailing up to 48-hours prior to the sail date if the price drops.

Credits accrued from the Cruise with Confidence program must be redeemed by April 30, 2022 on sailings departing on or before December 31, 2022, or 1-year from the original sail date, whichever is later.

Final payment window pushed back

Royal Caribbean cancels December 2020 cruises while preparing to restart | Royal Caribbean Blog

The final payment due date on sailings departing through March 31, 2022 will now have until 30 days prior to sailing to submit full payment. 

The change was made to give guests more flexibility in deciding if they want to cruise without forcing a cancellation earlier.

Royal Caribbean said they will not inform guests directly of this change, so that travel agents can do so if they choose.

"Rest assured, no action is needed on your part, and no cancellations will occur until the new final payment date."

Ordinarily, final payment date for a cruise is 90 days before sailing. 

COVID-19 Assistance program extended

One more extension is for Royal Caribbean's COVID-19 Assistance program, which covers passengers if anyone tests positive within 14 days of the cruise, or while onboard.

Vaccinated guests and children not yet eligible to be vaccinated who are sailing on or before April 30th, 2022 will have the following COVID-19 Assistance at no extra charge.

  • 100% cruise fare refund for you, and your Traveling Party, if any of you tests positive for COVID-19 within 14 days prior to the cruise or at the boarding terminal.
  • Pro-rated cruise fare refund if your cruise is cut short for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19 during the cruise, Royal Caribbean will cover the costs of COVID-19 related medical treatment onboard, any required land-based quarantine, and travel home for you and your Traveling Party.

Cruise industry supports CDC's temporary extension of cruise ship Covid-19 regulations

In:
26 Oct 2021

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended its requirements for how cruise ships need to operate due to Covid-19, and the cruise industry has come out in support of the temporary extension.

CLIA asked why CDC is holding cruise ships to a double standard | Royal Caribbean Blog

The extension means the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) will continue to remain in effect between November 1 and January 15, 2022, but the CDC says it will then expire.

While the CSO was at one time a major thorn in the side of the cruise lines who were eager to restart operations, the CDC began allowing ships to sail in June 2021 and since then, it has largely become a mere formality for ships to be able to sail from all major and minor cruise ports in the United States.

The Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA) issued a statement in support of the CDC's decision, as it provides a means for the CSO to transition to a voluntary basis, "Cruising has successfully resumed in the United States, with leading public health measures that have enabled our ocean-going cruise line members to effectively mitigate the risk of COVID-19 amongst cruise passengers, crewmembers and destinations."

"The changes to the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), announced today, show that the Biden Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognize the cruise industry’s successful resumption of operations. We look forward to demonstrating the industry’s continued leadership in this final phase of the CSO, and to carrying out a smooth transition when the Order comes to an end on 15 January 2022."

In mid-January, the CDC says the CSO will transition to a voluntary program in which participation will be at the discretion of cruise lines.

"CDC wishes to stress that cruise ship participation in any future voluntary program would not be mandated; the scope and parameters of such a program would be subject to further discussion and information sharing; and cruise ship operators would be free to develop alternative pathways of detecting, mitigating, and controlling the spread of COVID-19 onboard cruise ships."

CLIA believes the industry is committed to a safe approach to cruising once that occurs, "The health and safety of cruise passengers, crewmembers and destinations remain the industry’s highest priority."

"CLIA ocean-going cruise line members will continue to be guided by science and the principle of putting people first as we work with the Administration and the CDC to expand on our progress and build additional confidence in cruising as one of the safest vacation options, during the pandemic and beyond."

In a statement to RoyalCaribbeanBlog, a Royal Caribbean Group spokesperson also supported the CDC's move, "As our phased approach to healthy return to service continues fleetwide, we are pleased by the decision of the CDC to end the Conditional Sail Order after a two-month extension until January 15, 2022."

"Royal Caribbean Group will continue to operate in accordance with protocols that prioritize the health and safety of our guests, crews and the communities we visit, as we have done successfully from the United States since June."

What does the Conditional Sailing Order require?

In a nutshell, the CSO laid out a phased approach for cruise ships to restart operations from the United States through a series of steps in order to get approval to sail.

Introduced in October 2020, the full set of rules were not fully unveiled until spring 2021, but they provided cruise lines with requirements to ensure their ships would not put crew, passengers or communities served by the ships under unnecessary risk to Covid-19.

Cruise lines had the choice of mandating at least 95% of their passengers and 98% of their crew members be fully vaccinated in order to restart cruises quicker, or run test cruises with volunteer passengers to ensure health protocols onboard were effective.

Cruise lines like Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises opted to mandate the vaccine, while Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line chose the test cruise path in order to allow unvaccinated children onboard.

Royal Caribbean began test cruises in June 2021, and has successfully launched every one of its ships that has had to conduct a test cruise.

Simulated voyages applied a variety of new cruise line policies and rules to ensure they mitigate any potential spread of a virus onboard. Besides testing protocols, Royal Caribbean found the test cruises a good opportunity to prep the ship to return to service after many months of being shutdown.

The CDC now believes the protocols devised under the CSO has helped avert concerns it had earlier, "cruise lines, with CDC assistance, have resumed passenger operations and successfully developed and implemented health and safety protocols to manage COVID-19 that have averted overwhelming onboard medical facilities and burdening shoreside hospital resources"

Why the CDC extended the Conditional Sailing Order

CLIA wants cruise lines to work closer with CDC to resume cruises | Royal Caribbean Blog

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader smokeybandit reacted to the temporary extension by asking, "I want to know what difference another 75 days makes," which echoes many other cruise fans concerns about the CDC decision.

In the 54-page document the CDC issued regarding the CSO extension, it justified the temporary extension because of the upcoming winter season and anticipated increase in passengers and ships sailing from the United States.

"The winter season (November through January) has historically been the most active cruising season in the Caribbean and Central America, involving travel to countries currently listed by CDC as being under COVID-19 travel health notices where cruise ship travelers may be at increased risk for acquiring and subsequently introducing COVID-19 variants into the U.S.

 

"Additionally, cruise ship operators have informed CDC of their intended plans to increase the number of ships operating in U.S. waters this fall and winter."

The CDC added it was not "feasible" to pause the CSO in order to get a comment period, noting it would be "impracticable and contrary to the public interest."

Royal Caribbean releases November 2021 cruise ship health protocols for U.S. sailings

In:
25 Oct 2021

Hours after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an extension of the Conditional Sailing Order, Royal Caribbean released its health protocols for cruises departing the United States in November 2021.

Guests booked on November cruises received an email with the health rules they can expect if sailing on a cruise ship in November.

Protocols have been released for ships sailing from the United States, as well a separate policy for ships sailing from Puerto Rico. You should, refer to Royal Caribbean's protocols online.

Here is the list of protocols for ships sailing from the United States (excluding Puerto Rico), including government mandates and CDC pre-cruise testing requirements. 

Vaccinations

Spotted: Royal Caribbean adds new way to add Covid-19 vaccine card in its app | Royal Caribbean Blog

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

Testing

Two cruise lines shorten the window of time to get a pre-cruise Covid test | Royal Caribbean Blog

Required Pre-Cruise Testing: Guests will need to meet the new requirements recently issued by the U.S. CDC.

Vaccinated guests 12 years and older are required to present a negative COVID-19 Test Result (antigen or PCR) for a test taken no more than 2 days prior to the sailing's departure date and before their arrival to the terminal.

Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 must show a negative test result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 3 days before boarding day. Kids’ pre-cruise test cannot be taken on boarding day, because that may affect the sample taken during the kids’ test at the terminal.

No testing required for guests under age 2.

Pre-cruise tests are at the expense of the guest sailing, as well as scheduling.

Royal Caribbean recommends guests use the at-home test they recently approved for use and now sell directly to passengers via RoyalCaribbean.com/HomeTestKit

Kids Age 2-11 Years: Additional Testing

In addition to the pre-cruise test, kids will take one or two more tests. 

At the Terminal:  Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years are required to take a PCR test for COVID-19 when checking in at the terminal. Registration details for this test will be sent via email in advance. This test is complimentary.

Prior to Disembarking: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 will take a complimentary antigen test prior to debark. Depending on sailing length, there may be additional testing. Registration details will be provided onboard.

Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested.

Masks

Masks are required in the terminal, in select locations inside the ship, and may be required at various destinations. Guests under 2 years old don’t need a mask. 

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 and shows.
  • In your stateroom when you are with your traveling party.
  • While visiting our private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, 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.

Some venues and nightlife events will be for vaccinated guests age 12 and up, only. Masks won't be required in these venues. Vaccinated parents are invited to enjoy these experiences while their kids not present.

Dining

For Main Dining, Royal Caribbean will designate areas for everyone, including parents and unvaccinated children, and areas for vaccinated parties only.

My Time Dining will not be available to parties that include unvaccinated guests. Some specialty restaurants will be open to everyone, while others will be for vaccinated parties only. 

Other venues

The ship’s venues are set up to easily allow for physical distancing and there will be signage to guide passengers.

Theaters and activity venues will offer spaced seating and more showtimes. Some activities, showtimes, or seating areas will be reserved for vaccinated guests only.

The Fitness Center has operating hours for everyone as well as hours reserved for vaccinated guests only.

Spa services, except those offered in treatment rooms, are available to everyone.

Shore Excursions

Excursion Focus: Valley Church Beach in Antigua | Royal Caribbean Blog

Fully vaccinated parties may book a shore excursion or visit most ports freely — with the exception of those listed below, which will require tours for all guests who wish to go ashore, regardless of their vaccination status.

  • St. Lucia (November visits)
  • Barbados (November visits)
  • St. Kitts (November visits)
  • Antigua (November visits)

Families traveling with unvaccinated kids must purchase a local tour through Royal Caribbean if they wish to go ashore. This applies to all ports of call except Perfect Day at CocoCay, and Port Canaveral, Florida. 

Cruises from Puerto Rico

Royal Caribbean issues update on San Juan, Puerto Rico recovery | Royal Caribbean Blog

Explorer of the Seas is scheduled to restart cruises from San Juan, Puerto Rico in November and there are slightly different protocols for these sailings.

I've noted the major differences for cruises from Puerto Rico, but otherwise the same protocols for U.S. sailings apply.

For guests above the age of 2, Puerto Rico requires a negative PCR or antigen Covid-19 test result for certain travelers to enter depending on their vaccination status and point of origin.

If you’re flying in from the U.S.

  • Vaccinated guests have no testing requirement to enter Puerto Rico.
  • Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours prior to arriving at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan.

If you’re flying in from an international country

  • All travelers age 2 and up, regardless of vaccination status, must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours prior to arriving at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan.

If you are already in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico does not require a test from you.

Embarkation Day

No changes to Royal Caribbean cruises following Puerto Rico earthquake | Royal Caribbean Blog

To board the ship, you will need to bring a negative PCR or antigen test result to the cruise terminal. It can be the same result you used to enter Puerto Rico, provided you time it right.

  • Vaccinated guests age 12 and older must show a negative result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 2 days before boarding day.
  • Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 must show a negative test result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 3 days before boarding day. Kids’ pre-cruise test cannot be taken on boarding day, because that may affect the sample taken during the kids’ test at the terminal.
  • Guests under 2 years of age do not need to complete a pre-cruise test.

Kids Age 2-11 Years: Additional Testing

In addition to the pre-cruise test, unvaccinated kids will take two more tests. Royal Caribbean’s test provider will administer these, at no cost to guests.

At the Terminal
Kids will take a complimentary PCR test when checking in at the terminal. Registration details will be sent via email in advance.

Prior to Disembarking
Kids will take a complimentary antigen test onboard before the cruise ends. Vaccinated guests who require a COVID-19 test for re-entry into their country may receive one onboard as well. Guests will be notified onboard about how to register for this test.

Guests under 2 years of age do not have test requirements to board the ship.

Spotted: Royal Caribbean increasing capacity on its cruise ships

In:
18 Oct 2021

The amount of passengers on Royal Caribbean cruise ships is starting to slowly increase after remaining purposefully low during the initial restart process.

While Royal Caribbean does not divulge passenger counts or capacity limits for its ships sailing, there has been plenty of anecdotal evidence from passengers that the amount of guests onboard is going up from what it was this summer.

When Royal Caribbean restarted cruises earlier this year, the cruise line purposefully kept its capacity low to ensure the highest likelihood of success with regard to its Covid-19 protocols.

Why you shouldn't avoid older and smaller cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Anyone sailing on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the summer and early fall of 2021 enjoyed going on a ship with 25-40% of the normal capacity.

Read moreBest things to do on Royal Caribbean while there is limited capacity onboard

It now appears things may be changing.

Latest counts

People that have gone on a cruise recently have come back sharing passenger counts that are higher than they were just a few weeks ago, which seem to point to a trend of a higher ship capacity.

The last couple Mariner of the Seas 3-night weekend sailings have seen between 2,000 - 2,300 passengers, according to officers onboard.

The Allure of the Seas 7-night sailing that departed on Sunday has around 2,700 passengers onboard, according to a RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader.

The Oasis of the Seas sailings from Cape Liberty have seen higher numbers as well, with the October 17th sailing coming in at 3,147 passengers.

Royal Caribbean cruise fans have been sharing their passenger counts on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com message boards, and while there are ebbs and flows to how many passengers are on a particular sailing, the general consensus seems to be there are more passengers now than earlier this summer on most sailings.

Part of the plan

Anecdotal data is one piece of the puzzle, as Royal Caribbean has hinted it plans to ramp back up before the end of the year.

Last month, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain shared his thoughts at a recent industry conference on getting back to full capacity.

He said they kept capacity low initially to be extra cautious, "we made a deliberate decision to get more ships operating sooner, even when that means each ship operates at a very low occupancy for a few months."

"In terms of numbers next year, I definitely think so," Mr. Fain said. "In our core markets, we expect to be essentially there by the end of this year."

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley posted in August that the plan is to increase a ship's capacity monthly, "As we move month by month, we are increasing our capacity ship by ship."

With Royal Caribbean's health protocols working effectively, they seem poised to move to the next phase of the restart plan.

Best things to do on Royal Caribbean while there is limited capacity onboard | Royal Caribbean Blog

In speaking with various officers onboard Royal Caribbean ships I have sailed on, the plan is to ramp up passenger counts in November and December.

The benefits of more passengers

Top questions Royal Caribbean hasn't answered yet about its restart plans | Royal Caribbean Blog

Without a doubt, having limited capacity on cruise ships this summer spoiled anyone that got to sail because of the non-existent lines and waiting, but there are good aspects to having more passengers onboard.

One downside to a low capacity is the nightlife and entertainment is noticeably subdued. Being at a bar, lounge, or show with a fraction of the audience makes for a tame feel.

Moreover, having more passengers means certain venues will re-open or increase their capacity. When ships have exceeded 50% of their capacity, the Windjammer has re-opened for dinner service, which has been a common concern among cruisers this summer that miss having that option.

Of course, more passengers is also good for the cruise line and its employees.  Not only are more passengers good for the company's bottom line, but that also means more gratuities for crew members.  The trickle down effect cruise ship passengers have on the local economies of the ports a ship visits is also going to be positively affected by having more people traveling, from taxis, to hotels, to tour operators, and restaurants.

According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the cruise industry contributes over $55.5 billion annually, prior to the pandemic.

How many passengers will be on my cruise?

In short, there is no way to know in advance how many passengers will be on your upcoming sailing because Royal Caribbean does not announce or publish in advance passenger counts.

In addition, the cruise line does not say what percentage capacity its ships will be at going forward.

Once onboard the ship, you can usually ask Guest Services or an officer for a passenger count.

Keep in mind Royal Caribbean's cruise ships and private destinations are designed to handle a normal capacity of passengers, so even sailing with 50-90% capacity is still a positive experience.

Even before the pandemic, the myth of cruise ships being too crowded was out there, but thanks to better traffic flow and ship design, that is not the case.

Royal Caribbean's ships are built to include more deck space, bars, restaurants and entertainment venues to accommodate the larger number of passengers.

Read moreTop untrue myths about a Royal Caribbean cruise

Florida appeals verdict in cruise ship vaccine requirement lawsuit

In:
07 Oct 2021

The State of Florida is ready for another round of a legal fight over mandating Covid-19 vaccines.

Norwegian Cruise Line cancels May 2021 cruises | Royal Caribbean Blog

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) won a lawsuit earlier this summer against Florida over a state law that banned businesses from denying entry to customers who were not vaccinated.

Florida filed documents on October 4th with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to appeal the preliminary injunction NCLH won, and asking the appeals court to vacate the decision.

United States District Judge Kathleen M. Williams granted NCLH the preliminary injunction, but Florida wants that decision reversed.

In the 69-page filing, Florida argues the U.S. constitution gives companies no right for private companies to refuse service to prospective customers who fail to disclose private medical documentation.

NCLH argued that Florida's law violated its First Amendment rights and dormant Commerce Clause claims.

Florida says its law that was shot down by NCLH's lawsuit neither violates the First Amendment nor the Commerce Clause.

Section  381.00316  does  not  violate  the  First  Amendment  because  it  affects  what    businesses    cannot    do—condition    service    on    customers    providing    documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination—“not what they may or may not say,” Rumsfeld v. FAIR, Inc., 547 U.S. 47, 60 (2006), and thus does not implicate the First Amendment. Indeed, FAIR and Wollschlaeger v. Governor of Florida, 848 F.3d 1293 (11th Cir. 2017) (en banc), compel this result. 

Nor  does  Section  381.00316  violate  the  dormant  Commerce  Clause.  Under  the Pike  balancing  test—the  analysis  that  all  parties  agree  applies  to  the  statute—Florida’s  law  is  constitutional  because  any  indirect  effects  it  has  on  interstate  commerce  do  not  clearly  exceed  the  local  benefits  of  the  law.

In May 2021, Florida passed a new law that banned businesses, schools, and government agencies from requiring people to show documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccinations or post-infection recovery before gaining entry.

Breaches of this law would face a fine of $5,000 per violation.

Subsequently, in July 2021, NCLH sued Florida to get an injunction against the law, because the company says the law prevents them from operating their business safely.

NCLH believes the law puts them, "in an impossible dilemma" to operate sailings from Florida.  In their view, they would either have to be "on the wrong side of health and safety" or on the wrong side of Florida law.

Norwegian Cruise Line CEO says July cruises from U.S. "not possible" | Royal Caribbean Blog

Judge Williams agreed with NCLH's points, and said the law did not go far enough if it meant to protect the medical privacy of private citizens.

The Judge pointed out that businesses and employers are able to require Covid-19  test results, hospital records,other vaccination records, as well as information regarding exposure to third parties with Covid-19.  Therefore, Florida failed to explain why proof of Covid-19 vaccination documents are more medically sensitive or need more protection than these other documents.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO talks about getting back to full capacity

In:
28 Sep 2021

When will cruise ships get back to one hundred percent capacity is a hot question, and it could be as early as the end of this year.

8 Secret spots on Royal Caribbean cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

While speaking at the Seatrade Global 2021 conference earlier today, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman Richard Fain was asked his thoughts on getting back to full capacity as early as next year.

"In terms of numbers next year, I definitely think so," Mr. Fain responded.

"In our core markets, we expect to be essentially there by the end of this year."

Why you shouldn't avoid older and smaller cruise ships | Royal Caribbean Blog

Mr. Fain did not elaborate what "core markets" exactly means.  

Royal Caribbean International ships have been sailing at reduced capacity since they restarted operations, and there have been no public announcements as to how full any ship or sailing would be going forward.

Mr. Fain said he believes misinformation about the restart process has been an issue for customers, travel agents, and industry professionals.

Royal Caribbean's Odyssey of the Seas begins inaugural sailing | Royal Caribbean Blog

"I think a key issue here is there's so much misinformation out there on so many topics."

"It's been a difficult year for all of our partners here in the audience who have also had to deal with this and our travel advisory partners. But one of the things that's caused a lot of confusion is we've canceled cruises. Do you get your rebate? You take a future cruise credit. That's very confusing."

Mr. Fain echoed sentiments he shared last week in a video update that the upcoming booking season in early 2021 will be an important time to step up and show the public cruise ships are ready to sail.

What it's like to be a on cruise ship with no guests | Royal Caribbean Blog

"What we really want to do is make sure that when we start that key booking period, our ships are operating."

"They can see they're operating, they can see the protocols are working, they can see people are taking cruises, they're not going to worry about cancellations and this or that. So we really need to get back to a period of stability."

Last week, Mr. Fain said he wanted nearly all ships back in operation, "By the end of this year, we want virtually all of our ships to be operating and operating seamlessly in our core markets."

Royal Caribbean will now offer limited Covid-19 testing at the cruise terminal on embarkation day

In:
27 Sep 2021

There is now a new option to get your pre-cruise Covid-19 test at the cruise terminal.

Royal Caribbean announced it will offer boarding day test at the port on a limited basis.

Royal Caribbean said the new pre-cruise tests are "a last option if you simply can't find a pre-cruise test or could not secure results in time."

The terminal tests are only available for fully vaccinated passengers and available by appointment only.

The test will start at $99 per person, and guests will wait up to an hour for results outside of terminal. 

To book a test, schedule your appointment 30 minutes prior to sailing check-in time, 24 hours in advance.

These test options are for guests in the U.S. — international guests can use them only once they have arrived in the U.S.

PortMiami wants to broker a deal for shared cruise terminal between Royal Caribbean and MSC | Royal Caribbean Blog

Adding the new tests at the terminal is seemingly in response to guest feedback that getting a pre-cruise test is sometimes difficult due to overwhelming demand for Covid tests around the United States.

Royal Caribbean states it prefers guests use the at-home test kits, which can be ordered in advance of the cruise and are cheaper than the terminal testing.

Two at-home tests can be ordered for $69.99 USD; 3 tests for $99.99 USD.

You can order your test kit at RoyalCaribbean.com/HomeTestKit

Of course, guests can still opt to get a test done at a local pharmacy, lab, public test site, or doctor's office. 

Royal Caribbean's pre-cruise testing requirement

Two cruise lines shorten the window of time to get a pre-cruise Covid test | Royal Caribbean Blog

Regardless of which test you get, all passengers must get a pre-cruise Covid-19 test done within a few days of the cruise.

Guests age 12 or older must must show a negative COVID-19 test result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 2 days before boarding day.

Unvaccinated kids age 2 to 11 must show a negative test result for a PCR or antigen test taken no more than 3 days before boarding day. Kids’ pre-cruise test cannot be taken on boarding day, because that may affect the sample taken during the kids’ test at the terminal. Guests under 2 years of age do not need to complete a pre-cruise test.

Kids will take a complimentary PCR test when checking in at the terminal.”

Subscribe to Cruises Resuming