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Royal Caribbean releases Alaska cruise ship protocols for August sailings

In:
09Jul2021

Royal Caribbean sent guests booked on Alaska cruises in August a list of health protocols to expect onboard its sailings.

As ships are restarting operations, Royal Caribbean is sending out what health protocols for booked passengers on these sailings can expect and typically for each month.

The cruise line says these new protocols are especially important to unvaccinated children who are between the ages of 2 and 11.

This information only applies to sailings departing from Seattle in August 2021.

Vaccine requirements

All guests 12 years and older are required to 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

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. 

Prior to disembarking: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 years are required to take an antigen test onboard within 24 hours of the end of voyage. Vaccinated guests who require an antigen or PCR test for entry into their destination country may receive one onboard at no charge. Registration details will be provided during the cruise. 

Face masks

When indoors, CDC guidelines require all guests 2 years and older to wear masks unless they are actively eating or drinking.

The CDC makes allowances for guests to remove their masks in venues and events dedicated to fully vaccinated parties. Royal Caribbean says vaccinated guests will find "plenty of these opportunities".

Masks are not required in your client's stateroom when they are with their traveling party or outside on the open decks, unless in a crowded setting. Updates will be shared as changes to CDC mask guidelines occur.

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.

Windjammer will be open to everyone for breakfast and lunch, and the food will be served by crew members.

Royal Caribbean recommends to make dining reservations via Cruise Planner before the cruise or the Royal Caribbean app onboard.

Grab-and-go cafes will also be available for everyone.

Other venues onboard the ship

Theaters and activity venues will offer spaced seating with options for everyone and for vaccinated guests only. You will be able to make reservations for shows via the Royal Caribbean app.

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

The Fitness Center will have dedicated operating hours for everyone as well as hours reserved for vaccinated guests only. 

The Casino will be open to vaccinated guests only.

Youth spaces will be open to all children and teens.         

Shore excursions

Fully vaccinated parties have the choice of booking a shore excursion or visiting freely.

Parties that wish to go ashore and include any unvaccinated guests, including parents traveling with unvaccinated children, must book a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean.

Vaccinated parents wishing to go ashore freely can drop kids off at Adventure Ocean and reserve time for their child on the day they wish to go in port.

Other protocols

Check out health protocols from other ships already announced:

Alaska withdraws from Florida's lawsuit against the CDC

In:
Category: 
09Jul2021

The State of Alaska has pulled out of Florida's lawsuit to get cruise ships sailing again.

In a court filing on Thursday, Alaska's Assistant Attorney General filed a notice to withdrawal of Alaska's motion to intervene in the lawsuit against the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Alaska had joined Florida's lawsuit on April 21st, after Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) decided to join the effort to compel the CDC to allow cruise ships to sail again.

Alaska decided to pull out of the lawsuit because the temporary reprieve Congress passed to allow cruise ships to skip visiting Canadian ports as part of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act requires CDC approval.

"Alaska is subject to the unique requirements of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act that cruise ships visiting Alaska during 2021 must obtain a Conditional Sailing Certificate from the CDC and abide by all conditions of it," the statement explains.

According to Alaska, it filed its lawsuit at a time when the CDC had done nothing to approve any port agreements or ships to sail.  Since then, a lot has changed according to the state.

"Two days ago the CDC filed an affidavit stating that it has approved port agreements for four Alaskan ports, in addition to the port of Seattle, that conditional sailing certificates have been issued for five vessels sailing out of Seattle on Alaska-bound cruises, and that an additional vessel scheduled for Alaska-bound cruises has been approved for a simulated voyage out of Seattle."

"Given these changed circumstances, the State of Alaska withdraws its pending motion for permissive intervention under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(b)."

Despite removing itself from the lawsuit, Alaska "remains firm in its disagreement with the CDC’s legal position" and did not rule out rejoining the effort in support of Florida during the CDC's appeal.

The U.S. District Court in Tampa ruled in favor of Florida in the lawsuit, but the CDC has appealed the verdict.

In the meantime, Judge Steven D. Merryday denied the CDC's request to hold off on Conditional Sail Order injunction.

Governor Dunleavy was vocal in pursuing legal action against the CDC in the spring when there was no progress being made between the federal government and the cruise lines.

Alaska's economy is particularly vulnerable to a cruise ship ban, as a great deal of its tourism comes from cruise ships. Gov. Dunleavy says over the course of the two lost cruise seasons, Alaska will have a $3.3 billion loss in Alaska, "that's in a state with about a fifty six billion dollar GDP, so it's going to be significant."

At the time, Alaska wanted the CDC to drop the Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO), which prohibited cruise ships to sail in U.S. waters.

Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas is undergoing a CDC mandated test cruise right now, and Ovation of the Seas has no test sail date set yet, but CDC just waiting on confirmation from Royal Caribbean it has installed its laboratory testing equipment and tested its crew.

Royal Caribbean announces health protocols for Harmony of the Seas from Spain

In:
08Jul2021

Royal Caribbean has released the health protocols for guests sailing on Harmony of the Seas from Spain in August.

Like other ships that have restarted sailings, Harmony of the Seas has its own set of protocols for passengers that will bee sailing when the first cruises resume.

Harmony of the Seas is scheduled to restart sailings from Barcelona, Spain on August 15, 2021.

Keep in mind these protocols could change, and protocols for European sailings may be different than protocols when the ship returns to the United States.

Here is what Royal Caribbean has outlined for guests sailing on Harmony.

Vaccines

All guests 18 years and older must present proof of full Covid-19 vaccination, with the final dose of the vaccine administered at least 14 days before the sail date. 

Guests younger than 18 years of age do not need to be vaccinated; however, if they are, they should bring proof of vaccination to board and follow the testing guidance for fully vaccinated guests. 

All crew onboard Harmony of the Seas will be fully vaccinated.

On the transatlantic crossing to the United States, all guests must present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination, with the final dose of the vaccine administered at least 14 days before the sail date. Guests without proof of vaccination will not be permitted to sail. 

Proof of vaccination

Acceptable proof of vaccination must be in the form of the original vaccination record document issued by the country’s health authority or healthcare provider that administered the vaccination.

The vaccination record submitted must show that the guest is fully vaccinated. This means that the guest has completed the full cycle of required doses for the vaccine administered (e.g., received the second dose in a two-dose series) and that the guest has received the final dose at least 14 days before arriving at their cruise departure terminal in Barcelona.

Testing & Entry Requirements

Guests sailing from Barcelona, Spain will need to have the following documents when arriving to board the ship.

  • Proof of Vaccinations: Royal Caribbean requires guests age 18 years and older to be fully vaccinated. Upon arrival at the port, vaccinated guests must display proof of vaccination - acceptable proof of vaccination must be in the form of the original vaccination record document issued by the country’s health authority or healthcare provider that administered the vaccination. The vaccination record submitted must show that the guest is fully vaccinated — this means that the guest has completed the full cycle of required doses for the vaccine administered (e.g., received the second dose in a two-dose series) and that the guest has received the final dose at least 14 days before arriving at their cruise departure terminal in Barcelona.
  • Antigen Test Result: All guests age 2 years and older— including those who have been vaccinated — will need to take a complimentary antigen test on arrival at the port and present the negative test result.
  • Passport/European ID Card: Guests of all ages must have a passport valid for at least 6 months after the date of return to the guest’s home country. EU Nationals may also present their European ID card.
  • Health Questionnaire: Guests of all ages must complete the pre-cruise Health Questionnaire on the Royal Caribbean App the day before you board.
  • Visa: should one be required to enter Spain and any of the ports of call included within the itinerary.

Boarding Day in Barcelona

All guests age 2 years and older must take a complimentary rapid antigen test at the terminal in Barcelona and receive a negative result in order to sail. Registration instructions will be emailed in advance — approximately 14-18 days before the sail date.

During the Cruise

All unvaccinated guests aged between 2-17 years, must take a complimentary rapid antigen test towards the middle of the cruise. Once onboard, we’ll let you know where to go to take it.

Before Returning Home

All guests aged 2 years and older will need to take a complimentary COVID-19 test before disembarking the cruise. This result is required for re-entry into Spain and can also be used for re-entry into the guest’s home country, if needed. Additional details will be provided onboard.
 
Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested.

Masks

All guests 6 years and older, regardless of vaccine status, must wear a mask in all indoor and outdoor public spaces, unless seated and actively eating or drinking or sitting beside the pool.

Masks are not required to be worn:

  • In your own stateroom
  • In the pool or any activity where it could get wet
  • At public ports of call, local mask guidelines apply.    

Temperature Checks

For cruises departing from Spain, daily temperature checks will be conducted on all guests and crew to comply with local and national guidelines. 

More changes likely

Please note that health protocols are expected to change over time. Guidance for other ports and sailings is still in development with federal, state, and local authorities. 

Royal Caribbean promises more updates as they become necessary.

Here is a look at the email sent to passengers booked on Harmony.

Judge denies CDC request to hold off on Conditional Sail Order injunction

In:
Category: 
07Jul2021

A federal judge has denied the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) request to wait on eliminating the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) while the appeal process takes place.

On Tuesday, the CDC appealed the decision for a preliminary injunction against the CDC in allowing the CSO to be waived for Florida ports. The CDC also wanted the injunction to be stayed before it goes into effect on July 18.

Judge Steven D. Merryday reiterated his feelings in a three page response to the CDC's request for a stay, saying the CDC had exceeded its authority, "a stay that would serve to extend the unwarranted, unprecedented, and injurious exercise of governmental power by one person, the Director of CDC — is DENIED."

The Judge actually bolded and put the entire word "denied' in capital letters.

Judge Merryday went on to say that his conclusion is the CDC can show no factor that outweighs the need to conclude an unwarranted and unprecedented exercise of governmental power.

He also called out the CDC's claim that their actions are about protecting the public health, "this action is not about what health precautions against COVID-19 are necessary or helpful aboard a cruise ship; this action is about the use and misuse of governmental power."

As a result, the CSO will be stopped by order of the court at 12:01 a.m. EDT on JULY 18, 2021. At that time, the CSO the measures promulgated under the conditional sailing order will become a recommendation or guideline, and not be required.

Why the CDC isn't getting its way

Judge Merryday took some time in his decision to outline the reasons why he is not granting the CDC a stay during the appeal.

It boils down to a few key issues for the judge:

  1. CDC remains dismissive of the requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act,
  2. CDC remains dismissive of the manifest disjunction between the statute granting CDC authority and the authority CDC purports to exercise over the cruise industry
  3. CDC remains dismissive of state and local health regulation and dismissive of the cruise industry’s self-regulation
  4. CDC remains dismissive of successful cruise ship operation elsewhere in the world

He was also surprised the CDC did not want to take an opportunity to work on an alternative to the CSO, which was offered as part of the judge's original decision.

Cruise industry supporters will take solace in the words chosen by Judge Merryday, which paints the CDC in an unfriendly light as they squirm to find a way to get a favorable outcome.

Although CDC invariably garnishes the argument with dire prospects of “transmission” of COVID-19 aboard a cruise vessel, these dark allusions dismiss state and local health authorities, the industry’s self-regulation, and the thorough and costly preparations and accommodations by all concerned to avoid “transmission” and to confine and control the “transmission,” if one occurs. In other words, CDC can show no factor that outweighs the need to conclude an unwarranted and unprecedented exercise of governmental power.

Families and kids are the reason why Royal Caribbean is doing test cruises

In:
Category: 
07Jul2021

When the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave cruise lines two choices in how to restart operations, Royal Caribbean knew there was one clear choice for them.

Some have wondered why Royal Caribbean International did not follow sister brand Celebrity Cruises in mandating 95% of its guests be fully vaccinated, and it has to do with the fact Royal Caribbean International is a family brand.

In April 2021, the CDC gave cruise lines two choices: skip test cruises if 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated, or conduct simulated sailings first.

Royal Caribbean decided to go with the simulated sailings because of its commitment to families.

Speaking with Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Mark Tamis, he emphasized the decision to conduct test sailings was an easy one for them, "When the first set of potential regulations were published, it was such an obvious choice of the path that we had to go down."

"Once there were two clear paths, 95% or under 95%, it wasn’t even really a consideration."

Mr. Tamis called the decision "obvious" given how many kids sail with Royal Caribbean, along with the cruise line's dedication to remaining a family brand. "A good 20 to 25 percent of our guests are kids,"

In fact, according to Tamis, more than 1 million children sail on Royal Caribbean ships each year, "We're the largest family cruise brand in the world, so it was pretty obvious that we would just go down this path."

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley posted recently on social media there are a substantial amount of children too young for a vaccine on most sailings, "As a family brand, Royal Caribbean typically sails with 10 percent of our guests under 12 years old, and today, they are ineligible for the vaccine."

The vaccine policy is not the only way Royal Caribbean is looking to protect the family cruise segment of its customer base. Recently, Royal Caribbean announced unvaccinated passengers would not be able to go on independent shore excursions, including families where the parents are vaccinated but the kids are not.

Mr. Tamis indicated the cruise line wanted to make sure there were options available for families at a reasonable price, "We have just looked at how we manage that, and we made sure we had price points available so price wouldn't be a negative factor."

Cruises from Florida in July require both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests to have to wear masks onboard, but Mr. Tamis is optimistic new guidance from the CDC will change that.

"I'm guessing when we do get new regulations from the CDC, it will be around the number, a percentage of vaccinated."

While speaking to members of the media at Perfect Day at CocoCay on Sunday, Mr. Bayley said he is expecting a new update from the CDC regarding masks, which could allow for a ship with at least 75% vaccinated guests onboard to not require fully vaccinated guests to have to wear masks while indoors.

CDC appeals overturning Florida's cruise ship lawsuit

In:
Category: 
06Jul2021

A few weeks after a federal judge sided with Florida in a lawsuit against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC), the agency is appealing the decision.

On June 18, a federal judge ruled in favor of Florida in a lawsuit against the CDC because the agency overstepped its authority.

In a court filing on Tuesday, the CDC appealed the verdict to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Florida sued the CDC because it felt the CSO unfairly singled out one industry and was hurting Florida's economy, and a judge agreed with Florida.

In the 124 page summary, Judge Steven D. Merryday granted a preliminary injunction for Florida ports.

"This order finds that Florida is highly likely to prevail on the merits of the claim that CDC's conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated to CDC," the ruling said.

"Florida persuasively claims that the conditional sailing order will shut down most cruises through the summer and perhaps much longer," the judge wrote, adding that Florida "faces an increasingly threatening and imminent prospect that the cruise industry will depart the state."

The intention of the ruling was to bring cruise ships in line with other forms of leisure travel and entertainment, such as airlines, railroads, hotels, casinos, sports venues, buses, subways, and others.

The CDC instituted a ban on all cruise ships from the United States in March 2020 due to the global health crisis. Then on October 30, 2020 the CDC imposed a four-phase conditional framework it said would allow the industry to gradually resume operations if certain thresholds were met.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sued the CDC in April as a way to fight back against the CDC, which had not granted any permission to sail at the time.

"The CDC has been wrong all along, and they knew it," DeSantis said.

Since Judge Merryday issued his ruling, the CDC has granted permission for Freedom of the Seas to sail from the United States, and approved a number of other test cruises.

Five additional Royal Caribbean cruise ships have test cruises scheduled for July and August from ports in Florida, Washington, and Texas.

Carnival Cruise Line also restarted operations from PortMiami over the weekend with Carnival Horizon.

UPDATE: The CDC also filed a motion for a stay of the preliminary injunction on Tuesday.

In its court filing, the CDC wants the injunction to be stayed before the preliminary injunction takes effect on July 18, 2021.

The CDC believes the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) plays an important role in keeping passengers and crew safe on a ship, "It does not shut down the cruise industry but instead provides a sensible, flexible framework for re-opening, based on the best available scientific evidence."

"The undisputed evidence shows that unregulated cruise ship operations would exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, and that the harm to the public that would result from such operations cannot be undone."

"Cruise ships are uniquely situated to spread COVID-19, due in part to their close quarters for passengers and crew for prolonged periods, and stops at foreign ports that risk introducing new variants of COVID-19 into the United States."

In the CDC's opinion, "The balance of the harms and the public interest thus overwhelmingly favor Defendants and maintaining the status quo pending appeal."

Frequently asked questions about cruising on Freedom of the Seas from Florida

In:
05Jul2021

With Freedom of the Seas sailing from the United States, the state of enthusiasm for cruising's return is matched only by the amount of questions people have about what it is like to be onboard.

I shared my first look at what it is like to cruise on Freedom of the Seas, but I wanted to answer as many questions as possible from RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers on our Facebook page.

Keep in mind the protocols and requirements for cruises on Freedom from Miami in July may be different for other months and/or ships.

Do they still have the buffet?

Yes, the Windjammer Buffet is open for breakfast and lunch (not for dinner until they start allowing more guests onboard).

There are two major differences to the Windjammer:

  1. The staff serves you the food
  2. A crew member scans your SeaPass card when you come in because there is a limit to how many people can be in the Windjammer. If they reached that limit, they would turn guests away until it changes. Alternatively, you could make a reservation.
    1. So far, reservations have not been necessary with the small amount of guests on this sailing.

What are the rules for Adventure Ocean? Reservations? How many hours do you get per child?

There is limited capacity for every Adventure Ocean session, which means parents need to sign up their kids for a time slot.

Unlike on Adventure of the Seas where they give you hours to use, on Freedom, parents get a 4 sessions per sailing to book once onboard. The idea is to give everyone an equal opportunity to get time for their child.

Kids must wear masks while in Adventure Ocean.

How are they distinguishing being the vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers?

Vaccinated guests are given a wristband to wear around the ship, while unvaccinated guests have no wristband and get a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

You can read about how someone that is vaccinated can volunteer to disclose they are vaccinated.

If you have an unvaccinated child under 12 with you can they come with us into the vaccinated areas if all the adults are vaccinated?

No, since they are unvaccinated, you would have to follow the unvaccinated rules for designated venues that are off limits to unvaccinated guests.

Of course, when the child(ren) is not with you, you could go to any vaccinated space.

What percentage of the time are passengers forced to wear masks. 

Indoors, all guests (vaccinated or not) wear masks in public areas unless they are:

  1. In their stateroom
  2. Fully vaccinated and in a designated vaccinated area
  3. Sitting and actively eating or drinking

No guests have to wear a mask outdoors, such as on the pool deck.

For a vaccinated passenger, that basically means you are wearing a mask when walking around inside.  In practice, when you get to where you are going (restaurant, lounge, other venue), you can usually remove your mask.

Are the crew still wearing masks?

Yes.

We have been assigned a 1:00 check-in for a Jr Suite. Can we arrive early and go to the lounge, or do we need to stick to the 1:00 sharp check-in time?

They are still being very strict about the check-in times and enforcing them in order to ensure the terminal does not get overcrowded.

Per Royal Caribbean, there are no pre-arrival lounges to use, so plan to arrive at your designated check-in time.

Does the stateroom attendant still come in twice a day? If so, do they wear gloves and change them out?

Yes, there is still daily stateroom service and turndown service each evening.

I don't believe they are wearing gloves, but crew members practice a great deal of personal hygiene, including rigorous hand sanitization.

Do you "feel" the differences, pre-Covid vs. now?

The major differences that I feel are the lack of crowds due to limited capacity, and face mask requirements.

Overall, the cruise experience retains that fun feel it had before things shutdown, which means it still feels like you are on a cruise. The core elements are all still there.

Just like on land, there are some adjustments we have all made to adhere to new health requirements.

Since my wife doesn't drink alcohol can she give me her 4 Diamond drinks?

Yes, you just need your wife's SeaPass card to do that.  

Can unvaccinated children under 12 eat in specialty dining with vaccinated adults?

Yes, but with two exceptions:

  • Chef's Table
  • Izumi Hibachi

Do you think the Windjammer will re-open for dinner? 

Yes, Royal Caribbean executives have said it will re-open for dinner once there are more passengers onboard.

It is not quite clear yet what threshold the limited capacity onboard would have to reach, but it seems to be at least 50% occupancy.

Do they have extra masks when you go inside?

There are not masks available to pick up as you walk inside the ship from an outside area, but Royal Caribbean does have disposable masks they give you in your room on the first day.

It is primarily your responsibility to pack enough masks for your sailing.

Do you still leave cash tips at bars or are they attempting to be cashless?

Cash tips are still permitted.

How are they monitoring the masks?

Crew members will politely remind guests to put on or fix their mask if they notice a passenger not wearing one. Quite often it is a case of forgetting to put the mask back on after being outdoors.

Are the lounge chairs around the pool spaced further apart?

Yes, to some extent they are spaced a bit further apart than before. It looks like they don't mind chairs within a traveling party to be together, but other groups to have some space.

Can the WOW bands be used on Freedom of the Seas?

No, Royal Caribbean did not extend WOW band support to Freedom.

Face masks not listed on Royal Caribbean's August health protocols

In:
Category: 
05Jul2021

Royal Caribbean posted its health protocols for cruises sailing from Florida in August 2021 and there is no mention of face masks.

Whereas the protocols for cruises from Florida in July specify face masks must be work while in the cruise terminal and inside the ship, no such policy is listed for August sailings.

Royal Caribbean has not announced anything specifically to declare masks will not be necessary. Essentially, a face mask policy for August sailings is conspicuously missing.


August protocols for Florida sailings as seen today

At least one executive hinted at an upcoming federal policy change.

While speaking to members of the media at Perfect Day at CocoCay on Sunday, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said he is expecting a new update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding masks.

Mr. Bayley said he was expecting an update from the CDC that would allow a cruise ship with at least 75% vaccinated guests onboard to not require fully vaccinated guests to have to wear masks while indoors.

He did not say exactly when this new CDC update might occur, but it seemed more likely to be sooner than later.

Currently, CDC guidelines require all guests 2 and older to wear masks unless they are actively eating or drinking. The CDC does make allowances for guests to remove their masks in venues and events dedicated to fully vaccinated parties.

Under the July protocols on Royal Caribbean's website, the cruise line says it expects an update from the CDC, "In the coming days, we are expecting updated guidance from the CDC on mask policies for vaccinated guests in shared spaces and will update you at that time."

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson indicated the full list of August protocols are not yet on the website, "We have not released our protocols for August sailings yet and just posted details on the vaccine and testing policies since it was related to insurance."

"We anticipate that August protocols will be very similar to July. That being said, we are hopeful that the CDC changes the mask policy soon."

On Royal Caribbean's sailings from The Bahamas on Adventure of the Seas, masks are not required to be worn onboard among fully vaccinated passengers, although unvaccinated passengers are required to wear masks.

In the meantime, Freedom of the Seas has restarted sailings from Miami, and all guests are required to wear a mask while indoors.

To reduce the need to wear masks among vaccinated guests, Royal Caribbean set up certain venues to be fully vaccinated zones, where masks are not necessary. This includes place such as the casino, various bars and lounges, specialty restaurants and more.

Live on Royal Caribbean's first cruise ship to restart from the United States

In:
02Jul2021

After 15 months, the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship is sailing from the United States.

Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas is departing Miami today to begin a short 3-night weekend cruise, but the significance of her sailing is far more important than where she goes.

The cruise industry has been mostly shutdown since 2020, and while a couple of other ships have restarted around the world, all eyes have been focused on cruising's restart in the United States.

On Freedom of the Seas from Miami, Royal Caribbean will allow vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, although there are different rules about where you can go if you are unvaccinated. 

Before the cruise, Royal Caribbean gave passengers the choice of volunteering that they are vaccinated.  If you do not wish or skip showing proof of vaccination at check-in, your SeaPass card will be punched with a hole.

The health protocols in this post are for Freedom of the Seas sailings from Miami in July, and the cruise line has emphasized that protocols will vary depending on the ship and departure port. Moreover, protocols could change for Freedom of the Seas as various health organizations and the federal government changes requirements and recommendations.

The line has made some bars, lounges, restaurants, and events for vaccinated guests only, with no masks required. This includes:

  • Chef’s Table
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • R Bar
  • Schooner Bar
  • The Pub
  • Viking Crown Lounge
  • Solarium Bar
  • Solarium Pool
  • Casino Royale 
  • Casino Bar
  • Vitality Spa

Each scheduled event is designated if it is available to vaccinated guests only or not.

Unvaccinated guests will also need to pay for additional Covid testing.

Upon check-in, if you volunteered the information that you were vaccinated, you will be asked to show your vaccination card, at which point you will get a wristband to wear during the cruise to indicate to guests and crew you are vaccinated.

Unvaccinated guests will not have a wristband, and will get a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

In addition, masks are required to be worn in the cruise terminal and inside the ship for vaccinated or unvaccinated guests.  No masks are required outdoors.  

One major difference between Freedom of the Seas sailings from Miami and Adventure of the Seas sailings from The Bahamas is vaccinated guests need to wear masks while indoors onboard Freedom, whereas vaccinated guests do not have wear masks indoors on Adventure.

Around the ship, the designated areas for vaccinated guests have signs to remind guests of which areas are off limits.

Children's programming in Adventure Ocean and the teens club are operational, with limited capacity in the clubs to ensure the area does not get too crowded.


Revamped Adventure Ocean


Teen club

The vaccinated spaces have signs, and are even roped off in some cases, to mark areas available to vaccinated guests.

New muster drill

Perhaps the best new change is the refactoring of the cruise ship safety drill.

Instead of lining up at your muster station at a designated time, guests can now do the drill on their smart phone, tablet, or stateroom television.

Guests watch a short safety information video, listen to what the emergency alarm sounds like, and then go downstairs to their muster station to verify they know where it is.

The new muster drill is significantly faster, less burdensome, and does not require the entire ship to shutdown while everyone does the drill.  This is a very welcome change for guests, and an incredibly simple process to follow.

Dining

The dining options onboard are similar to what they were before the cruise industry shutdown.

There is still a buffet available for breakfast and lunch (they are closed for dinner), with a few different rules.

The buffet is full service instead of self-service, so the crew members will serve you the food.

In addition, there is limited capacity in the Windjammer.  Guests can make a reservation for a time, or simply walk up and see if there is space.  On our Adventure of the Seas sailings last week, there was never an issue with getting into the Windjammer.

In the Main Dining Room, there will be designated areas for vaccinated and unvaccinated reservations to dine separately.

My Time Dining will not be available to unvaccinated guests. 

How is it being on a cruise ship with the new protocols?

The overwhelming question everyone wants to know is what is it like to be on a cruise ship with the new rules in place.

As someone that is fully vaccinated, there are more areas available to enjoy and no restrictions.

The most noticable difference is the mask mandate while indoors (no masks required outside), which is far from ideal considering mask requirements for vaccinated people at home are eroding quickly in most restaurants, theme parks, hotels, and supermarkets.

Having been onboard for less than a day, my early thought is I will spend more time thinking in advance where I will go next, rather than leisurely walking around to explore.  That way, I can reduce the time needed where I am required to wear a mask.

Moreover, the limited capacity onboard (around 1,000 passengers on this sailing) means no lines or waiting for popular activities and attractions. 

But at the end of the day, being back on a cruise ship feels great. As a Floridian, being able to drive to a ship instead of flying is a welcome return.

Many cruisers I spoke to onboard are equaly eager to be back onboard and relish the opportunity, masks or not.

Others may find the rules too much at this time, and wait things out a bit longer until protocols change.  Royal Caribbean has said it expects government requirements to change regarding health protocol requirements, including possibly masks.

Based on sales, there is strong demand for cruises this summer as many flock to get back to travelling.

I will have regular updates throughout this sailing to provide a look at what the first cruise ship to sail from the United States looks and feels like.

Royal Caribbean releases health protocols for first Alaska cruise ship

In:
01Jul2021

Royal Caribbean will restart cruises to Alaska this month, and the cruise line has released its health protocols for guests onboard.

The cruise line has released the various vaccine and testing requirements, as well as rules regarding face masks and social distancing.

Serenade of the Seas will restart cruises to Alaska, becoming the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to visit Alaska since 2019.

Serenade of the Seas will begin sailing on July 19, 2021, and Ovation of the Seas will begin sailing on August 13, 2021.

Serenade of the Seas will sail 7-night cruises beginning in July, with stops in popular ports of call, including Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, as well as the jaw-dropping Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier.

Here are the protocols for guests sailing on Serenade of the Seas from Seattle in July. Keep in mind protocols and (and likely will) change.

Vaccines and testing

Vaccination Requirement

All guests 16 years and older are required to 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

At the terminal: Unvaccinated guests ages 2 years to 15 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. 

Prior to disembarking

Unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 15 years are required to take an antigen test onboard within 24 hours of the end of voyage. Vaccinated guests who require an antigen or PCR test for entry into their destination country may receive one onboard at no charge. Registration details will be provided during the cruise. 

Shore Excursions

 Any unvaccinated guests, including parents traveling with unvaccinated children, must book a shore excursion through Royal Caribbean.

Fully vaccinated parties have the choice of booking a shore excursion or safely visiting the port freely.

All guests are also subject to restrictions and requirements as defined by local authorities in the ports Royal Caribbean visits. 

Masks

When indoors, CDC guidelines require all guests 2 and older to wear masks unless they are actively eating or drinking.

The CDC does make allowances for guests to remove their masks in venues and events dedicated to fully    vaccinated parties.

Masks are not required in their staterooms when they are with their traveling parties or outside on the open decks, unless in a crowded setting.

Social distancing

The entire ship and boarding process has been set up to allow for physical distancing, which is encouraged whenever interacting with those outside of their traveling party.

Dining & Lounges

Dining venues, including the Main Dining Room, will offer spaced seating with sections for everyone and other sections for vaccinated parties only.

My Time dining is not available to guests traveling with unvaccinated children.

If you prefer a buffet, Windjammer will be open, and the food will be served by our crew.

Some bars and lounges will be available only to vaccinated guests.

Other Venues

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

Spa services, except those offered in treatment rooms, are available to everyone and the Fitness Center will be open to everyone at designated times.

The Casino will be open to vaccinated guests only.

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