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Royal Caribbean releases cruise ship health protocols for U.S. sailings October 16-31, 2021

In:
21 Sep 2021

Royal Caribbean has released its health protocols for cruises departing the second half of October 2021 from ports in the United States.

The cruise line had released October protocols for sailings in the first half of the month, but now we have the protocols for the second half.

These protocols apply to any Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing from a U.S. homeport between October 16-31, 2021.

Here is what Royal Caribbean has planned for passengers sailing in the second half of October.

Vaccination

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

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.

Testing

When do you have to take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Pre-Cruise

All guests 2 years and older must present a negative PCR or antigen test result.

  • Vaccinated guests ages 12 and over, test must be taken no more than 2 days prior to sailing.
  • Unvaccinated children ages 2 to 11, 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.

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

When do you have to take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

Embarkation Day

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

Shore Excursions

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

Masks

Coast Guard wont fine you for not wearing a mask on a cruise ship, but you will get kicked off | Royal Caribbean Blog

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 Perfect Day at CocoCay, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • By any guest under the age of 2.

Where and when will you have to wear a mask on a Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

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 are at Adventure Ocean. 

Dining

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Sea Day | Royal Caribbean Blog

The Main Dining Room has areas for all parties (vaccinated and those with unvaccinated children.) My Time Dining will not be available to unvaccinated children.

Windjammer buffet and Grab-and-go cafes are open to everyone for breakfast and lunch and crew members will serve you.

Some specialty restaurants are for vaccinated parties only. 

Other venues

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog | Royal Caribbean Blog

Theaters and activity venues offer spaced seating with options for everyone and vaccinated guests only. 

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

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

Cancellation

If booked guests do not wish to follow these protocols and are booked on a cruise sailing in late October, Royal Caribbean will offer a refund or move their sailing into the future when circumstances may have evolved. 

Cruise industry welcomes U.S. plan to welcome back international travelers

In:
21 Sep 2021

The United States will lift restrictions on foreign nationals wishing to fly to the United States, which is good news for the cruise industry.

While cruises have been able to restart in the United States since earlier this summer, many cruise fans from other countries have been excluded from the restart.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a statement in support of the Biden Administration's plan to begin allowing fully vaccinated visitors from other countries in November.

Beginning at some time in November, foreigners will be allowed to enter the United States if they can show proof that they have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and that they have tested negatively for the virus within three days of their flight. This includes visitors from the U.K. and EU.

The travel ban has been in place for well over a year, and CLIA welcomes the change to start allowing travel to return, "CLIA  joins our peers across the travel and tourism sector to express our appreciation to the Biden Administration for recognizing the importance of international travel to the U.S. economy and for establishing a path for international visitors to travel to the United States responsibly."

"The cruise industry is an important driver of international visits to the United States, prompting approximately 2.5 million international visitors to travel to the United States to embark on a cruise in 2019, representing nearly 18 percent of all U.S. cruise embarkations. International cruise visitors in the United States spend $4.5 billion annually on hotel stays, transportation, retail and other U.S. businesses, supporting nearly 60,000 American jobs."

"Our members look forward to welcoming international travelers, including from the United Kingdom and the European Union, back to the United States while continuing to prioritize public health."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also require airlines to collect and provide passenger information to aid contract tracing.

There will be a few exemptions to the vaccination requirements for foreign visitors, such as for children not yet eligible to be vaccinated, according to a person familiar with the White House’s strategy, but full details of the policy have not yet been released.

The Trump administration had first issued the rules, which now apply to more than 30 countries, in March 2020. President Joe Biden upheld those rules in January, shortly after taking office.

What's it like to cruise right now?

In:
20 Sep 2021

Before the cruise industry shutdown, I did a short cruise (almost always a three-day weekend on Navigator of the Seas out of Miami) about once a month for over a year. In addition to my trips on the Navigator as a solo cruiser, I did an occasional longer trip with my son on a variety of other ships including Independence, Explorer, and even once on Majesty).

When Royal Caribbean began its comeback in July, I was lucky enough to be on the first revenue sailing of Freedom of the Seas over the 4h of July holiday. That trip was tremendous fun, but it also wasn’t typical of what cruising would be like as the company mounts its comeback because that trip had a lot of Royal Caribbean executives on board as well as some celebratory touches (lobster on the opening day buffet, free drinks on the 4th of July during the fireworks display) that are not part of the new normal. In addition, that July 2 Freedom sailing did not have a typical crowd as there was a large media and social influencer presence onboard.

My most-recent trip -- Sept. 13-17 -- on Freedom was, perhaps more typical of what it’s like to cruise now and, while it was one of my favorite trips ever, there were some things that remain different from the pre-COVID world.

Protocols and testing

New requirements from the Bahamas made it so every person over 12 on-board had to be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination (a CDC card) when boarding. Passengers were also asked to upload pictures of their vaccination cards when checking-in for their cruise but doing that did not exempt you from showing it three separate times during the onboarding process which was perhaps more times than will be typical because there were computer issues at Terminal A in Miami when we boarded.

All passengers also needed to show proof of a negative Covid test taken one or two days before the cruise. I used the Royal-approved at-home test and that was a very easy process. In theory you could show the email you got with your negative results but having it printed out made the process go much faster. In fact, printing your set-sail pass also led to getting processed and boarding faster.

I carried my luggage on-board, but people who used the porter system seemed to get their bags very quickly because there were only an estimated 1,300 people on board (roughly 33% capacity). Boarding times were semi-strictly enforced but because the computers were down there was a line for my 2:30 boarding time when I arrived at about 2 and I was actually at my room a few minutes after 2:30.

Masks were not required in the outdoor part of the queue and there wasn’t much distancing. Once you entered the terminal masks were required until you reach your room. In general, you had to wear a mask walking indoors but could remove it in vaccinated venues, which were most of them aside from Playmakers which allowed masked, unvaccinated kids under 12.

In a broad sense, wearing a mask wasn’t as enforced as it was on the July 2 sailing. This wasn’t an official change in policy, but when people forgot to put their mask on or had it on incorrectly, I did not seem them corrected as they were on my previous trip. Still, most people wore masks when walking indoors and nobody seemed to be overtly ignoring the rules.

Fun, sun, and a whole lot of water

Despite the well-below capacity crowds, the beautiful weather made the pool areas very popular on the first day of the cruise, which was a sea day. The main pools had a healthy crowd and there were times the Solarium pool had limited open space along the walls or seated areas. There were even a few times when the Solarium hot tubs were filled to capacity (meaning there was no place to sit as no capacity rules were enforced),

Still, at no point did the pools feel crowded and getting a chair in a desirable location was easy. It rarely took more than a minute or two to get a drink at the various pool bars (and being a responsible reporter I believe I tried them all). Lines were limited at the walk-up soft-serve station and, while El Loco Fresh sometimes had a bit of a crowd, it was quick by normal standards even with crew members serving passengers instead of the normal self-serve procedures.

I spent most of the sea day bouncing between hot tubs and pools. It was busy enough to have people to talk to (something I find important as a solo traveler) but never crowded. The only notable difference aside from crowd size is that on my pre-pandemic trips there were generally more movies playing on the poolside screen with more showings of each film. This trip had a couple of movies each night but lacked the daytime repeats and the overall number of films screened was smaller than usual.

What was the crowd like?

Many of the people onboard were frequent cruisers and a lot of the people I met were not on their first sailing this summer. Much like the July 2 sailing, the passengers appeared very happy to be there and people were very friendly. 

I had joined a pre-cruise Facebook roll call for the trip and that group did an unofficial meetup at the Lime and Coconut pool bar on the first afternoon. It was a well-attended kickoff and the group got together in various combinations throughout the cruise getting bigger along way as we added new people we had met. 

One of the nice side effects of there being fewer people on board was that it was almost impossible to avoid seeing people you knew. I’m a pretty outgoing guy and generally make friends onboard, but this was the first time I have ever been part of large group that remained loosely affiliated for an entire trip (and I suspect this will be the most people I ever keep in touch with post-cruise). 

There were very few kids onboard with most that were there being below school age since this was a weekday trip.

Way too much food  

Normally, I start my cruise in the gym (as a way to avoid the buffet) but I was not that disciplined this time. Instead, I went to the Windjammer and sampled a few dishes. Since it was already about 3 p.m., however, I kept it to a few bites. Service was quick with crewmembers dishing out the food and drinks. Seating was easy to come by even though half the tables were marked as not available due to social distancing

On my way into the buffet I stopped at Chops where the woman working the reservation desk greeted me by name and helped me make reservations for the next four nights. As a solo traveler I tend to book the Ultimate Dining Package as it was around $70 when I booked it (prices can vary a lot) and eating alone in specialty restaurants by yourself has always felt more comfortable to me than eating alone in the main dining room (especially now when singles are largely not being sit with larger groups due to the pandemic).

There was, however, a major change on this trip compared to the policies on my July 2 sailing -- Royal was allowing people not travelling together or on linked reservations to dine together. I found that out late in my trip after learning that some members of our informal group had been allowed to dine together in the main dining room. 

One of the big advantages (or disadvantages) of the limited number of passengers meant that you never waited for food. Places like the Promenade Cafe, El Loco Fresh, and Sorrento’s, which often have long lines, almost never had more than a few people waiting. That made it way too easy add that post-midnight slice of pizza or pre-dinner dessert that you maybe didn’t need.

I ate at Chops the first and last night and Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen on nights two and three. Originally, I planned to eat at Izumi Sushi on one of those middle nights., but a scheduling snafu on my part led to a change in plans.

Dinner was largely excellent but the lack of crowds led to service being, perhaps, a little too quick. Dinner normally takes me closer to 90 minutes than 60 and I was in and out in under an hour all four nights.

Freedom of the Seas completes $116 million Royal Amplification | Royal Caribbean Blog

At Chops I had the wild mushroom soup both nights which may be my favorite dish in any Royal Caribbean restaurant I have sampled. I also particularly enjoyed the lamb chops the first night and had specifically saved the ribeye with the peppercorn sauce for my last night.

I treated Giovanni’s as essentially two separate experiences going with the calamari and polenta as an appetizer the first night (alfredo dipping sauce is excellent, but I prefer the zesty marinara with the already fried dish) and had the linguine vongole as a main course. The sauce was light and the fresh pasta was cooked perfectly. 

For the second visit to the Italian eatery, I decided to sample the pizza (a first for me) going with the wild truffle which includes truffle oil, an egg with a loose yolk, and bacon. The runny egg made the dish truly decadent and I mopped up as much as I could though my waiter was surprised when I left a little less than half of the pizza unfinished.

Both Chops and Giovanni’s excel at dessert, I got a shot of espresso all four nights and tried the Red Velvet Cake at Chops, the cannolis and tiramisu at Giovanni’s and. A new one for me, the key like meringue at Chops on the last night which was a lighter complement to the ribeye that was my main course.

I skipped breakfast all four days instead opting for lattes (included in the drink package) at the Promenade Cafe while I got some work done for three of the four mornings. On the last day, for Perfect Day at CocoCay, I instead took my coffee to go and sipped it once I left the ship.

Perfect days

Our trip started with a sea day that I spent largely in the Solarium bouncing between the pool and the hot tubs. Conversation was plentiful and people seemed to be relishing getting back to cruising. This weekday trip did not have bachelorette parties, boys weekend groups, and other heavier partiers I saw often on the three-day weekend version of this cruise so, while drinks were flowing, I never saw anyone overtly drunk.

The lines were minimal everywhere on board and, while I’m not a waterslide or FlowRider person, those activities were easily accessible. I generally like doing a few trivia sessions on board and while some were scheduled, there were fewer than there were in the past. There was also no laser tag which has been missing since the pandemic (likely because it’s impossible to distance while playing). 

In general, the activities were exactly the same as they were pre-pandemic with fewer sessions of some things and some minor changes like I mentioned earlier with fewer movies playing.

Like most of those onboard, I elected to not get off in Nassau as many of the shops remain closed and, while I enjoy walking about a mile to Junkanoo Beach, taking advantage of the semi-empty ship seemed like a better option. Nassau also has some pretty strict mask-wearing rules and the thought of being masked on a hot day when I could just opt to stay on-board was mildly unpleasant.

Our last day included a much-anticipated stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay. On the July 2 sailing, the Freedom was the only ship that stopped at the private island and with its limited crowd, it left CocoCay feeling very empty and since I was the second person off the ship, I literally had the Oasis pool to myself (well me and dozens of crew) for about 45 minutes.

This time, the Mariner of the Seas was also docked and while the island still had a very light crowd, it was busy enough to not feel empty. It was never hard to get a prime beach or pool chair (I never found it all that hard in the pre-pandemic days) and the bar was hopping at the Oasis pool with seats at the actual bar being the only tough get on the island.

We closed our Perfect Day with a small meetup at Captain Jacks where the crowd was sparse but the music and service were top-tier. 

And perfect nights

At night, I tend to skip the theatrical productions because when you travel on the same ship repeatedly the stock shows quickly become repetitive. Freedom did require reservations for the headliner shows but walk-ins were accommodated.

I tend to split my nights between the Pub, the casino, and the Schooner Bar, depending upon who’s performing at the two music venues. In this case, I had seen John Winters in the Pub and Andy C. in the Schooner on the July 2 sailing and enjoyed both of their work. I spent more time in the pub, however, because I enjoy the mixology menu which might be the best drink selection of any Royal bar I have experienced.

The staff was incredibly attentive and almost too-quick to replenish your drink. They were, however, quite accommodating when I asked for a bottle of water with each drink (and requested they not bring me another until I finished it). 

We also had a pretty neat experience in the casino bar when on night three we got stuck in Nassau until after midnight due to a passenger needing emergency medical treatment (I later learned the person involved was brought to Ft. Lauderdale and was expected to make a full recovery). A few of us were waiting for the casino to open and we had been asking the bartenders to make us drinks they thought we might like. Daria started making a few different concoctions that were well received, but Christian was the star of the night. He created the “Emergency In Nassau” which was a layered red and blue drink which mixed when you removed the champagne flute that was served with it.

The small crowds made it easier to connect with staff and from bartenders to waitstaff and room attendants, service was universally more able to talk than usual. 

As for the casino, it was never crowded, but always had a steady audience. My personal luck was mediocre, but it was easy to secure your favorite slot machine or a seat at a table game. Freedom, it’s worth noting, has a ton of slot machines, but only four video poker machines hidden in a back corner.

Back to reality

When we docked in Miami I planned to carry my luggage off to get back to my car to make the 90-minute ride back to West Palm Beach. You’re supposed to stay in your cabin rather than line-up waiting for the all-clear, but I opted to get coffee at the Promenade Cafe (have to make the best possible use of the drink package) and, while I was drinking it, the doors opened to let people off.

Normally, Miami has a super-easy facial recognition system where you don’t need to take your passport out. On this trip, however, I had the bad luck of being flagged (randomly, I think) for added security screening. The officer who pulled me in was super nice and asked if there was anything in my bags he needed to know about. Since I hadn’t bought anything and the only addition was some beach sand, I said “no,” and two officers went quickly through all of my belongings. It wasn’t fun, but it was handled well for what it was and about 20 minutes after I would have gotten to my car had I not been flagged, I was in my car, heading for a long workday, and planning for my next sailing on Oct. 11 (also on Freedom).

Dan Kline covers the cruise industry as part of his work as a lead advisor for 7investing. He also hosts 7investing Now, a free show for long-term investors that airs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1 p.m. ET which can also be found on all major podcast platforms.

Royal Caribbean releases cruise ship health protocols for U.S. sailings October 1-15, 2021

In:
13 Sep 2021

Royal Caribbean has released its health protocols for cruises departing the United States for at least the first half of October.

Travel agents received an update from Royal Caribbean with the health rules to protect guests and crew members from Covid, which the cruise line calls "proven protocols".

These protocols apply to any Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing from a U.S. homeport between October 1-15, 2021.

Here is the list of protocols for early October sailings:

First look photos around newly delivered Odyssey of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

Vaccinations

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 before sailing.

Testing

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

All Guests

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.

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

Royal Caribbean now selling at-home Covid tests for cruise ship passengers | Royal Caribbean Blog

Unvaccinated guests 2 to 11 years old are required to present a negative PCR Test Result for COVID-19 (antigen test are not accepted for children) for a test taken no more than 3 days prior to your sailing's departure date and before your arrival to the terminal.

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.

Kids Age 2-11 Years: Additional Testing

When do you have to take a Covid test before your Royal Caribbean cruise? | Royal Caribbean Blog

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: For sailings 5 nights or longer, 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 the cruise. This test is complimentary.

Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested.

Masks

Royal Caribbean releases Alaska cruise ship protocols for August sailings | Royal Caribbean Blog

Wearing of masks applies to all guests, except for guests under the age of 2 years old, who do not need to wear 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 with your traveling party

Spotted: Royal Caribbean charging to reserve pool deck casitas on Odyssey of the Seas | Royal Caribbean Blog

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

Dining

Odyssey of the Seas Live Blog - Day 3 - Sea Day | 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. 

Other venues

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

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 with options for everyone and for vaccinated guests only. 

Cancellation

If booked guests do not wish to follow these protocols and are booked on a cruise sailing in early October, Royal Caribbean will offer a refund or move their sailing into the future when circumstances may have evolved. 

Royal Caribbean now selling at-home Covid tests for cruise ship passengers

In:
08 Sep 2021

In order to make getting a Covid test easier for passengers before their cruise, Royal Caribbean is now selling at-home Covid-19 test kits.

Royal Caribbean announced last week it would begin selling these at-home tests, and on Wednesday they went on sale for the first time.

Due to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) policy change, fully vaccinated guests must now get their pre-cruise Covid test done just two days before the cruise begins. Previously it was three days.

While there are many testing sites that can offer rapid antigen tests, Royal Caribbean teamed up with Optum to sell bundles of the Abbott BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test.

The kits can be purchased via Royal Caribbean's special link from the Optum website.

Here is my full review of trying out the BinaxNOW test, which was extremely easy and quick.

Guests can purchase a pack of two for $69.99 or a pack of three for $99.99, which includes the test kits, expedited shipping, and live virtual visit.

Royal Caribbean recommends purchasing two tests per person just in case you lose or contaminate a part of the test, or have an error during the testing process. However, technically a two or three test pack can be split between members of a traveling party, with one test per person.

This particular test kit is a FDA-authorized rapid antigen home test,

Royal Caribbean could be first cruise line to restart cruises in Tampa by October

In:
18 Aug 2021

While cruise ships have restarted from most of Florida's ports, Tampa has been conspicuously absent.

Many cruise fans have wondered when cruise ships would start sailing from the western Florida port, and October might be the first opportunity.

At the Tampa Port Authority board meeting this week, port officials said a mid-October is possible.

Royal Caribbean announced earlier this month Serenade of the Seas would offer 4- and 5-night Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa, Florida, starting Oct. 16.

The first sailing is a five-night cruise to the Bahamas, followed by a 4-night sailing to Cozumel on October 21st.

Brilliance of the Seas is also scheduled to sail from Tampa to offer 4- and 5-night Bahamas and Western Caribbean cruises from Tampa, starting Dec. 16

Tampa officials now seem to echo that announcement in their own plans.

Tampa Port Authority Vice President of Business Development, Wade Elliott, said at a meeting that a mid-October restart is what they are expecting, "We anticipate that we will begin to see regular sailings from Port Tampa Bay starting again in mid-October, so we’re excited about that."

"We are encouraged to see the cruise industry slowly starting back up across the county."

Elliott said Port Tampa Bay’s facilities teams have been making cosmetic tune-ups to the terminals and the port will be ready for cruise travel in weeks.

"Structurally, we’re in good shape," he said.

CDC rule prohibits cruise ships based outside of United States from returning for 14 days

In:
10 Aug 2021

Celebrity Cruises announced a new round of cancelled sailings for one of its ships that was scheduled to return to the United States, and it is because of a rule the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has for ships homeported outside the U.S.

Celebrity Cruises announced it has cancelled 4 sailings of Celebrity Summit between August 28 and September 11, 2021 because of the CDC's rule.

According to the CDC, the current requirements indicate that all ships operating with passengers outside of U.S. waters (i.e. ships with a homeport outside of the U.S.) will not be eligible to enter U.S. waters until 14 days after the last passenger disembarks.

A spokesperson for the agency told RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com,"At this time, there is no exception to this requirement; therefore, all ships planning to sail in U.S. waters under the conditional sailing order (CSO) will be required to sail without passengers for 14 days prior to entering U.S. waters."

This rule does not apply to cruise ships that homeport in the U.S. which sail to international waters. Rather, just ships embarking passengers in foreign countries.

The CDC added that they are "currently evaluating the need for options as ships want to reposition to the U.S. in the fall."

This policy has been in place since the start of the CSO in the agency's technical instructions.

 For ships currently outside of U.S. waters and not operating under the CSO, submission of the Enhanced Data Collection form for 14 days preceding the cruise ship’s expected arrival in U.S. waters is required prior to being assigned a color status.

It is unclear yet if other ships returning to the United States from Europe will also be affected by the policy.

In a letter to passengers booked on Celebrity Summit, the cruise line explained it was canceling the four sailings because of this CDC policy, "The CDC has currently advised any ship returning to the US after having traveled in international waters may not sail with guests onboard for at least 14 days."

Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, and Jewel of the Seas are all sailing European cruises this summer, and are scheduled to return at the conclusion of their season.

I've reached out to Royal Caribbean for an update on how this policy may affect current deployment plans, if at all.

Adventure of the Seas schedule looks to already have enough of a pre-built in gap when she finishes her sailings from Nassau, Bahamas and moves to Galveston, Texas.

Norwegian Cruise wins lawsuit against Florida over Covid-19 vaccine passport ban

In:
08 Aug 2021

Florida's showdown over businesses being able to require customers to show proof of a Covid-19 vaccine has ended in a legal loss.

United States District Judge Kathleen M. Williams granted Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) a preliminary injunction which would allow a cruise line to require passengers to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 if sailing from Florida.

Judge Williams said in the docket that the combination of trying to restore consumer confidence and the Delta variant contributed to NCLH's win.

"Businesses face unprecedented challenges, including the understandably difficult tasks of restoring consumer confidence and minimizing the spread of COVID-19. In addition, the nation is now threatened by new virus variants that are more transmissible than the initial strain."

NCLH sued Florida because it wanted to ensure every single person sailing on its ships are vaccinated, which would violate a Florida law that was passed earlier this year banning such a practice.

In May, the Florida Legislature passed and Governor DeSantis signed into law a bill stating that all business entities “may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or services from the business operations in this state,” subject to the imposition of a fine not exceeding $5,000 per violation.

The cruise line sued Florida so that it could restart sailings from Florida on the Norwegian Gem on August 15, 2021, and the company had adopted a policy requiring all passengers on its vessels to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to provide documentation confirming their vaccination status before boarding.

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

Judge Williams felt the fact the law allows businesses to require proof of a Covid-19 vaccine for its employees, while at the same time cannot demand the same proof of its customers makes it known as a "content-based restriction".

The Judge pointed out that the law prevents proving a customer is vaccinated, but allows the cruise lines to limit unvaccinated passengers’ access to events, activities, and venues.

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas do not have access to certain dining venues, the casino, art auctions, the indoor pool, or the spa and during shows, they are required to sit in the back of the theater. (DE 35-1 at 22–29.) Princess and Carnival have also limited the excursions available to unvaccinated guests at ports of call.  Thus, Section 381.00316 does not prohibit businesses from treating unvaccinated passengers differently by charging them more while offering them less. 

She also pointed out that adult-only cruises, which exclude a significant amount of unvaccinated people (children), is not prohibited under the law.

In sum, if combatting discrimination were the goal, merely banning the exchange of COVID-19 vaccination documentation is an ineffective way to accomplish this objective because the Statute does not directly prohibit the treating of unvaccinated persons or those who decline to verify their vaccination status by businesses and employers differently.

In addition, the privacy of customers is not protected by this law, saying it is "far too underinclusive" to protect medical privacy, if that were a goal of it.

The Statute does not govern employers, who are free to require COVID-19 vaccination documentation from employees, and Defendant does not explain why the exchange of these documents is less intrusive on medical privacy in the employment context.

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.

During the hearing, it was divulged the law does not prohibit a business from providing their Covid-19 vaccine status orally, nor does it prevent a company from retaining, disclosing, or publishing a person’s Covid-19 vaccination status.

Cruise lines have subjected unvaccinated passengers to different policies that easily disclose their unvaccinated status.

Royal Caribbean provides unvaccinated patrons with a “hole punched in their SeaPass” to indicate their status to crewmembers and segregates these passengers to one deck of the main dining room

In addition to NCLH's First Amendment claim, Judge Williams agrees that the law imposes substantial burdens on interstate commerce that will directly affect their abilities to operate the Norwegian Gem and other vessels.

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval for Allure of the Seas to sail

In:
06 Aug 2021

Another Royal Caribbean cruise ship has gotten approval to sail from the United States.

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas has received its Conditional Sailing Certificate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which means the ship can offer cruises with paying passengers onboard.

This certificate is the final phase of the CDC's phased approach, known as the Conditional Sail Order (CSO), to allowing cruise ships to resume operations from the United States, and is yet another ship in the fleet to get approval by the U.S. government to sail.

Allure of the Seas had her 2-night test cruise conducted on July 27.

The cruise line shared the good news on social media, although it has not always shared publicly which ships have gotten approval to sail following a test cruise.

Allure of the Seas is scheduled for her first sailing this weekend when she departs Port Canaveral on August 8.

Allure joins Freedom, Serenade, and Odyssey of the Seas as ships able to restart cruises after getting CDC approval.

Test cruises are part of the CSO that the CDC implemented as a way for cruise ships to resume operations.

Since Royal Caribbean will not require at least 95% of its cruise passengers to be fully vaccinated, test cruises are needed to demonstrate to the CDC that the onboard health protocols work.

All of the crew members will be fully vaccinated on Allure of the Seas, and any unvaccinated guests (mainly children, according to the cruise line) will be subject to additional testing requirements and specific health protocols. 

Sailings on Allure of the Seas will require all guests to get a pre-cruise Covid test up to 3 days before the ship sails, and to bring the negative test result to the ship.

The new test requirement of all guests is a new protocol recently introduced due to the Delta variant and Covid cases subsequently rising across the country, especially in Florida.

Once onboard, Royal Caribbean has new health protocols for guests depending if they fully vaccinated or not.

All guests must wear face masks while indoors, but the mask can be taken off when in a fully vaccinated area, and/or while actively eating or drinking. Masks are also not necessary when outdoors or at the cruise line's private island.

Vaccinated guests also wear a wristband to easily identify themselves as vaccinated, while unvaccinated guests have no such wristband and have a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

Hearing held in Norwegian Cruise lawsuit against Florida in vaccine passport ban

In:
06 Aug 2021

Lawyers for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) and the State of Florida were in court on Friday to deliberate the merits of the lawsuit against a ban on Covid-19 vaccine passports.

The preliminary injunction hearing was held in a virtual court hearing between attorneys from both parties as Judge Kathleen M. Williams in Miami heard both sides of the case.

This court case is NCLH's claim that Florida's law that prohibits businesses from requiring proof of Covid-19 immunity in return for a service. Violations of this law come with a $5,000 penalty per violation. It went into law as of July 1.

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

The attorneys for NCLH argued a variety of issues, primarily focusing on company's first amendment right by restricting the flow of information with customers and interferes with interstate commerce.

NCLH sued Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Scott Rivkees, because he is the head of Florida's Health Department.

Florida justifies the law by saying it is enacted to protect against discrimination privacy concerns.

The cruise line felt the law was passed by Florida's legislature without any proof there was an actual problem with a particular industry to substantiate concerns vaccine requirements were creating any sort of problem.

In the case of protecting against discrimination, NCLH's lawyer pointed out employers can can still require vaccine documentation for Covid-19 from employees, suppliers, or contractors.

Florida said a cruise line can ask for proof of vaccination and its customers are free to provide it, but the cruise line cannot deny entry to the ship for anyone who declines to provide documentation.

Norwegian is planning to restart cruises from Florida on August 15, but wants the Florida vaccine passport ban lifted before then so the company does not violate the law each time a passenger is asked to show vaccination proof.

At the conclusion of the nearly 2 and a half hour hearing, the Judge said she hopes to have a response "very soon".

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