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Cruises Resuming

Royal Caribbean will charge unvaccinated cruise passengers for tests and have different protocols

In:
Category: 
09Jun2021

If you aren't vaccinated, your Royal Caribbean cruise will likely cost you more than if you are fully vaccinated.

During a webinar with travel agents, Royal Caribbean said it plans on handling unvaccinated guests differently, which may include extra costs and different protocols onboard.

Royal Caribbean will not mandate the Covid-19 vaccine due to the fact they are a family cruise line, but local laws in Florida and Texas make verifying who is or who is not fully vaccinated difficult.

Royal Caribbean cautioned their plans could change, but as of now, unvaccinated passengers sailing from Florida can expect extra testing costs that will not be part of the cruise fare.

  • CRUISES FROM SEATTLE
    • Guests who are 16 years of age or older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and those 12 or older as of Aug. 1 
  • CRUISES FROM FLORIDA
    • It is strongly recommended that guests set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible. Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing, be responsible for any expenses incurred and follow other protocols. These expenses are still being finalized. 
  • CRUISES FROM TEXAS 
    • Vaccine requirements are being finalized based on state law. 

In addition, other health protocols may be mandated for them.

Rules for cruises from Texas are still being discussed.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, explained the current plan, "Cruises from Florida: It is strongly recommended that guests set sail fully vaccinated if they are eligible.

"Those who are unvaccinated, or unable to verify vaccination, will be required to undergo testing, and they will be responsible for any expenses incurred and follow other protocols. These expenses are still being finalized."

She said exact costs are not known yet because it is will being worked out.

Ms. Freed said protocols for cruises from Texas are "being finalized". Texas just passed a law prohibiting local businesses from asking for proof of vaccination, similar to Florida's law.

Royal Caribbean's policy mirrors what Celebrity Cruises announced yesterday, when they indicated unvaccinated guests will be able to sail, but there are implications to doing so.

It also follows up on what Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO said earlier this week in a video update, when he disclosed unvaccinated passengers would have different rules, "due to the health and legal requirements of many jurisdictions, those who are unvaccinated will need to undergo additional testing and other restrictions. That necessarily adds to their cost, and adds limitations on the cruise for those people who choose to be unvaccinated."

Mr. Fain added that there would be no additional costs for children who are not eligible for the vaccine.

Royal Caribbean releases health protocols for Anthem of the Seas UK cruises

In:
08Jun2021

Royal Caribbean has shared the health protocols for Brits sailing on Anthem of the Seas from Southampton this summer.

Anthem of the Seas will begin sailing from Southampton, England on July 7, 2021 on sailings with a combination of 4-night cruises to nowhere in early July and 5- to 8-night British Isles cruises, starting 15th July, that feature visits to destinations such as Liverpool, England, Kirkwall in Scotland and Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

These cruises are available to UK residents only, and proof of residency will be required.

The cruise line has now shared what health measures will be required for guests sailing onboard, although the protocols are being continually evaluated. Royal Caribbean says booked guests can expect to be advised of the latest requirements within 30 days of sailing.

Vaccines

All crew members will be vaccinated, and anyone that is 18 years old or older must be fully vaccinated as well.

If you are fully vaccinated, you’ll need to present your testing results (through the Eurofins Trust One app or a physical test result) and Proof of Vaccination (either on the NHS app or a NHS vaccination certificate) on boarding day. 

If you are not fully vaccinated before the sailing because the healthcare system is working by age group, you will not be able to sail.

Testing

Vaccinated guests must bring the negative result of an rt-PCR test taken within 72 hours of sailing. We will email instructions on how to register for your complimentary test approximately 14-18 days before your cruise.

Unvaccinated guests, 2-17 years old, must take a complimentary rapid antigen test at the terminal and receive a negative result in order to sail. We will email instructions on how to register in advance approximately 14-18 days before your cruise.

Guests Under The Age Of 2 have no testing requirements.

No further tests or documentation is required for your return and disembark at Southampton.

Face masks

Outdoors onboard: Masks are not required outdoors in open-air areas, such as decks, balconies and by the pool, unless you are in a crowded setting. Masks are not permitted in the pool or for any activity where they could become wet.

Indoors onboard: All guests 11 years and older must wear a mask in all indoor public spaces, unless seated and actively eating or drinking. Masks are not required in your stateroom as long as you are with your own travel party.

At public ports of call, local face covering guidelines apply. 

Shore Excursions

Royal Caribbean says it anticipates guests will not have to book a tour in order to go ashore, but it is not confirmed yet.

"At this time we anticipate that you won’t need to book a tour to go ashore in our destinations, we are working closely with each of the ports we visit and will ensure we adhere to the protocols they have defined."

Dining

Royal Caribbean recommends making reservations for onboard dining.

Specialty dining and My Time Dining times can be booked via the Cruise Planner app. Reservations for the Main Dining Room and Windjammer can be made once onboard by using the Royal Caribbean App or calling the reservation line. 

Windjammer will be open for breakfast and lunch, and food will now be served to you by crew members to avoid guests sharing serving utensils. 

Entertainment

Venues will seat at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing, and the cruise line will also be offering more showtimes throughout each sailing so there is an opportunity for everyone to see the shows.

Show times can be reserved via the Royal Caribbean App.

Florida vs CDC lawsuit will continue on Thursday

In:
Category: 
07Jun2021

The legal challenge between the State of Florida and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will continue this week.

Judge Steven D. Merryday will hear arguments on Thursday in the ongoing court case that seeks to lift the CDC's No Sail Order and allow cruise ships to sail without CDC approval.

Florida sued the CDC so that cruise ships could return to service faster and without government approval.

The case will be held in Tampa following court mediation that failed to come to any kind of a resolution.

Florida filed the lawsuit back in April when cruise ship restart plans from the United States were completely idle. Florida felt the cruise lines were being treated unfairly, and the CDC's approval process would be much to slow and onerous.

Since then, a lot of progress has been made by both the CDC and cruise lines to get going again.

Royal Caribbean announced summer restart plans from the United States last week, and Carnival and NCL both announced restart plans earlier today.

A Memorandum in opposition court filing by U.S. Department of Justice attorneys say now the situation is completely different, and "recent factual developments further undermine" Florida's argument for the need to lift he CSO.

"Cruising is on track to resume by mid-summer, and Florida cannot establish an irreparable injury that would occur in the absence of an injunction. Plaintiff’s original motion was premised on the misconception that an “industry” was “shut down” indefinitely," the filing stated.

"That was never a valid characterization of the CSO, and it is demonstrably not the case now."

The CDC has been certainly more active in changing protocols, and approving test cruises.

So far, a number of Royal Caribbean cruise ships have been approved to begin test sailings, with more lines getting approval too. In fact, the CDC says thus far they have approved 22 port agreements at 5 ports of call and has approved or provisionally approved 11 requests to conduct simulated voyages; and has received and provisionally approved 2 conditional sailing certificates for highly vaccinated cruises.

The CDC also repeated its claim that if the Conditional Sail Order was lifted, it would mean cruises to Alaska would not be possible.

According to the CDC, the legislation recently signed into law by President Joe Biden is only effective if a Conditional Sailing Order issued by the CDC remains in effect, "because Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA) only benefits ships operating with a Conditional Sailing Certificate under the CSO."

The CDC also believes if Florida wins the lawsuit, it would "cast considerable additional doubt on public confidence in the industry", and otherwise "undermine" restart plans for passenger operations.

Court ordered mediation took place last week between the two sides, but those talks failed.

Taryn Fenske, communications director for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, spoke out after the mediation went nowhere about the fact the CSO continues to be "unlawful", "After more than a week of good-faith negotiations by the State of Florida in mediation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after Florida sued the CDC to overturn the agencies unlawful No Sail Order, the CDC continues to impose ridiculous, unlawful regulations that targets a single industry by imposing vaccine requirements – something no other business or industry must do."

"These requirements not only discriminate against one industry, but children, families, and small businesses. Despite Florida’s sincere efforts to reach a compromise, the United States District Court declared an impasse."

The cruise lines have been caught in the middle of the CDC and Florida fight, as being federally required to verify if a passenger is fully vaccinated or not is now impossible under Florida law.

Florida law bans cruise ships (and any business) from being allowed to ask customers if they are vaccinated.

The penalty for doing so would be $5,000 for each passenger who is asked for vaccination proof.

CDC approves test cruises for Independence and Mariner of the Seas

In:
04Jun2021

Two more Royal Caribbean ships are approved to begin test cruises.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved test cruises for Mariner of the Seas and Independence of the Seas, which makes them the fourth and fifth Royal Caribbean ships approved for test cruises.

Earlier this week, Symphony and Allure of the Seas were approved. Freedom of the Seas was the first ship to get approved.

The CDC was busy with other approvals, for ships from Celebrity Cruise Line and Carnival Cruises.

Mariner of the Seas will begin her test cruises on August 11, 2021.

Independence of the Seas will begin her test cruises on August 1, 2021.

Royal Caribbean confirmed the test cruise start dates, which coincide with Royal Caribbean's other big announcement of restart plans for this summer.

Royal Caribbean plans to start revenue cruises on Mariner of the Seas from Port Canaveral, beginning on August 23, 2021.

Likewise, Independence of the Seas is scheduled to sail from Galveston with paying passengers on August 15, 2021.

Of the ships confirmed for restart earlier today, we are still waiting on test cruise dates for Serenade, Ovation, and Odyssey of the Seas.

Each cruise ship needs to be approved by the CDC in order to conduct test cruises.

During these test cruises, Royal Caribbean will go through a variety of scenarios to prove to the CDC that the ship can conduct sailings in a safe manner. Specifically, the new protocols aimed at preventing Covid-19 from getting onboard the ship are at the heart of these dry runs.

Each ship must conduct at least one simulated cruise, and each voyage must be between 2-7 days in length with a least one overnight stay, including through embarkation, disembarkation, and post-disembarkation testing.

According to the CDC, passengers and crew must meet standards during the simulated voyage for hand hygiene, use of face masks, and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation.

Royal Caribbean must modify meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing during the simulated voyage.

Royal Caribbean announces it will restart cruises from the U.S. in July

In:
Category: 
04Jun2021

Royal Caribbean announced on Friday cruises from the United States are coming back in July.

After 16 months of not being able to sail, Royal Caribbean announced it will restart cruises from the United States with select cruise ships in July.

Royal Caribbean will begin with the July 2 sailing from Miami on Freedom of the Seas for a short cruise to the Bahama, just in time for the Fourth of July. 

By the end of August, 12 Royal Caribbean ships will be cruising once again across The Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska and Europe.

Royal Caribbean said their approach to restart "will remain very deliberate and methodical."

Their roll-out plan will span across the "next several months". 

No doubt today's announcement raises a lot of questions, and Royal Caribbean says a subsequent communication detailing the protocols and boarding requirements passengers can expect for U.S. based ships will be shared at a later date.

The cruise line said it has received guidance from the Healthy Sail Panel, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Preventions (CDC), and various government and health authorities to make this happen.

Royal Caribbean has already announced plans to require the Covid-19 vaccine for all adults, and some teens.

Vacationers sailing from Seattle or The Bahamas who are 16 years of age or older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and those 12 or older as of Aug. 1.

Guests are strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible. Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date. Other measures in place for travelers to cruise with Royal Caribbean include:

  • Vacationers sailing to Alaska who are 16 years of age or older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and those 12 or older as of Aug. 1.
  • If departing from an international port, guests must meet the travel requirements of their home country and the country of departure. The most up-to-date policies can be found online on each country’s tourism site.

The new U.S and Europe cruises extend Royal Caribbean’s previously announced plans to return to sailing, which include Adventure of the Seas departing from The Bahamas on June 12 as well as Anthem of the Seas sailing out of the U.K. and Jewel of the Seas from Cyprus in July.

Short cruises (3-5 nights)

Freedom of the Seas from Miami Florida, beginning July 2, 2021

Now open and on sale

Mariner of the Seas from Port Canaveral, Florida, starting August 23, 2021 

Now open and on sale

7-night Cruises

Odyssey of the Seas from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, debuting July 3, 2021

Now open and on sale

Allure of the Seas from Port Canaveral, Florida, starting August 8, 2021

Now open and on sale

Symphony of the Seas from Miami, Florida, starting August 14, 2021

Now open and on sale

Independence of the Seas from Galveston, starting August 15, 2021

Will go on sale beginning June 8, 2021

Serenade of the Seas from Seattle, starting July 19

Now open and on sale

Ovation of the Seas from Seattle, starting Aug. 13

Now open and on sale

UPDATE: Guests booked on Independence of the Seas from Miami departing July 3 - October 23, 2021 will be moved a similar sailing on Odyssey of the Seas departing Fort Lauderdale. Should guests no longer wish to sail due to this change, refunds can be requested through June 18, 2021.

Beginning in July 2021, Navigator of the Seas cruises are being converted over to Freedom of the Seas cruises.

Europe

Harmony of the Seas from Barcelona and Rome, starting August 15, 2021

Now open and on sale

More cancellations

While Royal Caribbean is able to restart operations on 7 ships this summer, a number of other ships are now cancelled since their restart will take longer.

Cruises outside of those announced today will be cancelled through the end of August. 

  • Allure of the Seas departing Port Canaveral: July 4-August 1, 2021
  • Brilliance of the Seas  departing Tampa: July 3-August 28, 2021
  • Enchantment of the Seas  departing Baltimore: July 1-August 26, 2021
  • Explorer of the Seas  departing Galveston: July 5-Sept 22 & October 25, 2021
  • Freedom of the Seas  departing Bayonne: July 3-October 23, 2021
  • Harmony of the Seas  departing Barcelona & Rome: July 4-August 12, 2021
  • Harmony of the Seas  departing Rome: August 19 & 26, 2021
  • Liberty of the Seas  departing Galveston: July 4-August 8, 2021
  • Mariner of the Seas  departing Port Canaveral: July 2-August 20, 2021
  • Oasis of the Seas  departing Bayonne: July 2-August 29, 2021
  • Rhapsody of the Seas  departing Ravenna/Venice: July 3-November 30, 2021
  • Symphony of the Seas  departing Miami: July 3-August 7, 2021

Guests on the cancelled cruises are eligible for a full refund, 125% future cruise credit, or a modified Lift & Shift.

The modified Lift & Shift is an option where you can move your existing booking to a sailing next year on the same itinerary type], sailing length, embarkation port, stateroom category, and within 2-weeks before or after the date of your original cruise.

What about the CDC?

These plans are exciting, but Royal Caribbean's plans are indeed subject to approval by the CDC.

Royal Caribbean says they are in "continuing discussions with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and multiple state, local and port authorities in the U.S. and with various destination communities regarding the various requirements for the upcoming sailings."

The current process requires each ship to complete a simulation cruise before receiving approval to resume sailing once again from U.S. ports.

The applications for simulation cruises are under review and receiving approvals on a rolling basis. The progress made as a result of the ongoing collaboration with and support from the state, local and federal level continues to set the stage for Royal Caribbean to return to sailing this summer as planned.

The cruise line will share updates on measures with guests and travel advisors before their departure dates. 

Celebration of a return

As you might imagine, Royal Caribbean is as excited as cruise fans for the return of cruises.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley welcomed the major announcement, "This is it. Vacationers can finally plan to take their precious time off this summer and truly get away after what has been a challenging time for everyone."

"I would like to sincerely thank our guests and travel partners for their incredible patience and understanding during this very difficult period. Thanks in large part to the successful rollout of vaccines, the world of adventure is beginning to open up, and we are all excited to start delivering great vacations to our guests, who have increasingly told us they are getting vaccinated."

"As of today, 90% of all vacationers booking with Royal Caribbean are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise."

Mediation fails between CDC and Florida in lawsuit to get cruise ships sailing

In:
Category: 
03Jun2021

Court ordered mediation between the State of Florida and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appears to have failed.

According to a state official, court ordered mediation between the two parties has not reached any kind of a settlement.

A report by WESH says an official in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration confirmed the mediation effort over the last few days has gone no where.

Florida is suing the CDC to drop the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) so that cruise ships can restart operations immediately.

Read moreWhy does the CDC regulate the cruise lines?

ClickOrlando reported Taryn Fenske, communications director for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, issued a statement that the state filed a response to the CDC’s request for more time to relitigate the case.

"After more than a week of good-faith negotiations by the State of Florida in mediation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after Florida sued the CDC to overturn the agencies unlawful No Sail Order, the CDC continues to impose ridiculous, unlawful regulations that targets a single industry by imposing vaccine requirements – something no other business or industry must do."

"These requirements not only discriminate against one industry, but children, families, and small businesses. Despite Florida’s sincere efforts to reach a compromise, the United States District Court declared an impasse."

On May 18, Judge Steven D. Merryday ordered Florida and the CDC into mediation to work out an agreement by June 1st.

Mediation is a common process in the courts where a neutral third person called a mediator helps the parties discuss and try to resolve the dispute.

The official with DeSantis’ administration says the state will wait on a ruling on its lawsuit, which is expected "soon."

Florida believes the CDC does not have the right to hold back the cruise industry for this long, and is unlawful.

Instead, Florida wants cruise lines to be able to sail without any kind of restart approval process.

The CDC not only believes it has the jurisdiction to act in this manner, but thinks dropping the CSO would create a problem for the cruise lines.

In legal paperwork filed this week, the CDC explained an injunction would end cruising in Alaska for the season (because Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA) only benefits ships operating with a Conditional Sailing Certificate under the CSO).

The ATRA temporarily permits “covered cruise ships” to meet an alternative standard, where a “covered cruise ship” is defined as one that  “has been issued, operates in accordance with, and retains a COVID–19 Conditional Sailing Certificate of the CDC” and “operates in accordance” with that Certificate.

In addition, the CDC thinks if the CSO was waived as a result of the lawsuit, the public would not trust cruise ships are safe, "an injunction would cast considerable doubt on public confidence in the industry, particularly in the State of Florida, which is publicly battling with the industry over its own laws."

The same official from Governor DeSantis' administration says Florida will maintain its ban on cruise lines asking for proof of vaccination from passengers.

Florida would fine the cruise line $5,000 for each passenger who is asked for proof.

CDC has approved 4 test cruises, with 6 more under review

In:
Category: 
02Jun2021

The CDC's inbox is getting full as cruise lines are rapidly applying to restart cruises.

A motion filed in court on Monday related to Florida's lawsuit against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave an update on where the CDC stands in granting approval for test cruises to begin.

According to the federal agency, cruise lines and ports have been busy making preparations for cruises to restart.

As of June 1, 2021, the CDC says it has provisionally approved 4 requests for test cruises to begin, with another 6 requests "under review".

The CDC also said it has received and provisionally approved 2 conditional sailing certificates for highly vaccinated cruises. These are cruises which will meet or exceed the mandate of having at least 95% fully vaccinated passengers and 98% fully vaccinated crew members.

In addition, port agreements covering 22 vessels at 5 ports of call have been approved, and another 6 are awaiting review.

The CDC divulged this information as an example to mediators that the CDC is indeed living up to its end of the bargain with the cruise lines to get ships back into service.

Read moreEverything you need to know about Royal Caribbean test cruises

"In short, cruising is set to resume as planned, and Florida cannot establish an irreparable injury that would occur in the absence of an injunction," representatives for the CDC stated in its motion.

So far, the public is aware of two of the four ships approved for test cruises: Freedom of the Seas and the Disney Dream.

The CDC has not listed what the other ships are, nor which other ships have applied for permission.  Thus far, the public is only made aware of specific approvals when a cruise line executive announces or leaks the information.

In terms of port agreements, Galveston, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades and PortMiami are all known to have signed agreements with various cruise lines to support test cruises.

The Port of Galveston announced on Tuesday that Royal Caribbean was "near completion on May 26" of its port agreement.

Test cruises and port agreements are all part of Phase 2A of the CDC's Conditional Sail Order (CSO).

The agreements also detail how the port, health district and cruise lines plan to respond in the event of an outbreak with medical care, transportation and housing, if needed. The cruise lines must demonstrate that they have agreements in place with providers for all of these services.

Procedures detailed in the agreements include the following:

  • Simulated passenger cruises
  • Compliance with port COVID safety procedures
  • A tabletop exercise with cruise line and port staff on port COVID safety procedures and protocols
  • An emergency response plan in the event of an outbreak
  • A plan for medical evacuations at sea coordinated with the U.S. Coast Guard
  • Cruise terminal and transportation vehicle cleaning requirements

Florida objects to the CDCs conclusion

The purpose of the motion by the CDC was to essentially say Florida's lawsuit is meritless, but Florida objects.

The CDC believes not only are cruises in the process of restarting, it says, " Florida cannot establish an irreparable injury that would occur in the absence of an injunction."

The agency believes an injunction against the CSO would actually hinder, not help, Florida's goals.

According to the CDC, an injunction would end cruising in Alaska for the season (because Alaska Tourism Restoration Act (ATRA) only benefits ships operating with a Conditional Sailing Certificate under the CSO).

The ATRA temporarily permits “covered cruise ships” to meet an alternative standard, where a “covered cruise ship” is defined as one that  “has been issued, operates in accordance with, and retains a COVID–19 Conditional Sailing Certificate of the CDC” and “operates in accordance” with that Certificate.

In addition, the CDC thinks if the CSO was waived as a result of the lawsuit, the public would not trust cruise ships are safe, "an injunction would cast considerable doubt on public confidence in the industry, particularly in the State of Florida, which is publicly battling with the industry over its own laws."

Lastly, the CDC said an injunction would "otherwise undermine the carefully laid plans for safe resumption of passenger operations."

The motion says the CDC shared this information with the State of Florida via email on Monday, and Florida "partially opposes this motion and will file a response."

Spotted: Royal Caribbean cruises scheduled from Miami beginning in July

In:
31May2021

We already know Freedom of the Seas will begin test cruises in June 2021, but are revenue cruises already planned as well?

A week ago, Royal Caribbean announced it would start test cruises on its first ship to get approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Freedom of the Seas.

Friend of RoyalCaribbeanBlog @UltimateCruiseNews spotted on the Miami Dade County cruise ship schedule at PortMiami listing Freedom of the Seas cruises, beginning on July 2, 2021.

The schedule seems to have Freedom of the Seas offering 3- and 4-night cruises from PortMiami through the month of July.

In addition, the Royal Caribbean app shows very similar dates for Freedom of the Seas on its schedule.

Royal Caribbean has not cancelled its July sailings across the board, and still has bookable cruises on Freedom of the Seas from Cape Liberty, New Jersey on the cruise line website.

Royal Caribbean has not made any announcement about a redployment for Freedom of the Seas, but the schedule might shed light onto what could be coming.

In comparing the Royal Caribbean app dates to the PortMiami schedule, as well as what is listed on Royal Caribbean's website, it seems the app has both sailings loaded in at the moment.

Of course, the docking schedule does not contain much information in the way of determining what the intent is for the ship. Could these sailings in July be revenue cruises? More test cruises? A mistake by the county?

Freedom of the Seas will definitely be conducting test cruises from PortMiami between June 20-22, 2021, and that is reflected on the schedule.

Simulated voyages (also known as test cruises) are when cruise lines can operate ships with volunteer passengers in order to prove their new protocols work.

These are not cruises you can book, but rather, are limited voyages where a cruise line invites certain unpaid volunteers to help go through all the necessary steps and procedures to ensure cruise ships can be run safely.

Each cruise ship needs to be approved by the CDC in order to conduct test cruises.

As to how accurate the July sailings listed are, and if they are the precursor to Royal Caribbean announcing revenue cruises remains to be seen.

In March 2021, the Port of Los Angeles website listed Navigator of the Seas on their schedule prior to Royal Caribbean making their own announcement.

Los Angeles pulled down their schedule for a short time until Royal Caribbean made their formal announcement.

Important things to know about Royal Caribbean's restart plans

In:
Category: 
29May2021

Optimism surrounding the cruise industry's chances of restarting are likely the most optimistic they have been in well over a year, and that includes Royal Caribbean.

Over the last couple of weeks, Royal Caribbean (and its sibling cruise brands) moved the closest yet to real sailings out of the United States, and it has a lot of cruise fans excited.

After more than 15 months of no cruises from North America, we are swiftly looking at the real prospect of summer cruises.  Essentially, restart plans went from "if" to "when" in many people's minds.

While a restart is very close, cruise lines are not out of the proverbial woods quite yet, and there are some hurdles and challenges left to overcome.

Here are the most important things you should know about Royal Caribbean's restart plans.

Adults (and some kids) need to be vaccinated

For months, Royal Caribbean was uncertain if passengers would need to be vaccinated, and the answer now appears to be yes.

If you are thinking about going on a cruise ship this summer or fall, you will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

The cruise line updated its policy recently to all adults over the age of 16 on North American sailings will need to be vaccinated in order to go on a cruise before August 1.  After August 1, that age restriction drops to 12 years old.

Royal Caribbean has not said much since the policy was changed, but it is clear they are looking to mitigate risk as much as possible.  In an industry that is unfairly and unfortunately associated with outbreaks, they cannot afford to take chances.

Could this policy change? Certainly as life gets back to normal and the vaccine becomes more widely available, there is always a chance this policy could be relaxed.  But in the meantime, plan to be vaccinated if you want to cruise this summer.

Test cruises will be necessary first

While Celebrity Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line are going to straight to revenue sailings, Royal Caribbean International will have to conduct test cruises first, and then move to revenue sailings.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave cruise lines two choices: get 95% of passengers and 98% of crew fully vaccinated and skip test cruises, or do test cruises first.

Royal Caribbean opted to do test cruises simply because they are a family cruise line and knew they could not get to 95% of its guests fully vaccinated, primarily due to the amount of children onboard.

This means each ship will need to conduct a series of test cruises to demonstrate its new health protocols can work before the CDC will approve a ship to sail with paying passengers.

Speaking of test cruises, if you are interested in being a volunteer on a test cruise, there does appear to be a way to volunteer and hope you get picked.

So far, Royal Caribbean has announced test cruises will begin in June on Freedom of the Seas, but expect more ships to get the go-ahead as well.

Slow approach to restart

Don't expect Royal Caribbean to announce all, most, or even half of its ships restarting immediately.  Or even over the next few months.

For many months, Royal Caribbean (and all cruise lines) have been emphatic that their restart will be slow and methodical.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said very early on in the shutdown restart will be structured, "We don't expect that... someday somebody blows a horn, and all the ships start operating right away. We think that it will be a gradual start, a little bit like society is opening up gradually."

"So we would imagine that we would start with fewer ships, and more likely to be more drive markets in the beginning, and then it would then evolve and grow from there."

As an example, Norwegian Cruise Line just announced restart plans for 8 ships, and many are not going to begin their first sailings until October or November 2021.

So far, Royal Caribbean has only announced Alaska cruises from Seattle as the confirmed sailings from the U.S. this summer.

As cruise fans, we are eager to get back onboard on our favorite ships from ports of call nearby, but keep expectations inline.

CDC still holds a lot of influence

Like it or not, the CDC is still mostly in charge.

The road to restart goes right through the CDC's jurisdiction, and the cruise lines seem to be past trying to shake them off and are now focused on getting approval to sail.

The tone of discussions with the CDC has radically improved lately, especially with the CDC rolling back burdensome rules and protocols.

Perhaps more surprising is cruises sailing from outside the United States still seem to be based on CDC guidance.

Royal Caribbean has not released its health protocols for Adventure of the Seas cruises from Nassau, Bahamas due to in part, the CDC.

An email update yesterday told guests, "As we’ve been working to finalize all the details, we’re taking a lot into consideration, including the CDC’s recommendations, Bahamian Health Authority’s guidance, and our own Healthy Sail Panel’s expertise – to find that sweet spot."

No matter where ships sail this summer, the CDC will be along for the ride for at least a while longer.

Florida

Celebrity Cruises referred to it as "the elephant in the room", and Florida has gone from chief enabler to major blocker of cruises restarting.

In short, Florida passed a law that prohibits any business from asking their customers for proof of vaccination.  While this may make sense in the case of restaurants or supermarkets, it creates an enormous problem for cruise lines who are battling a sensationalized media that counts any case onboard a ship as a modern day Pandora's Box.

The Governor's office has been adamant about enforcing the policy across the board, including the cruise lines. Meanwhile, cruise executives are talking about some kind of compromise that is in the works.

What ends up happening is anyone's guess, but Florida is the epicenter of the cruise world, and while ships could sail from other states, it is a market too large to ignore.

In the meantime, it is a story to keep an eye on as it relates to where and when cruise ships will be able to sail from first.

Royal Caribbean has vaccinated over half of its crew members

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28May2021

Royal Caribbean's restart plans are moving faster with their ambitious policy of trying to get crew members fully vaccinated.

Ever since Royal Caribbean committed to getting all of its crew members vaccinated, the logistics of doing so seemed to be a challenge, but things are moving swiftly now.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley shared on Facebook that over half the crew members currently onboard cruise ships are vaccinated.

"Over 50 percent of our current crew fleetwide are vaccinated!  We are getting there slowly but surely," he shared in a Facebook post.

Mr. Bayley indicated that there are 10,620 crew members onboard, and 5,730 of them are either partially or fully vaccinated.

Over the last few weeks, Royal Caribbean ships have been coming in and out of Florida ports to get crew members their vaccine shot. 

On just Thursday, Adventure of the Seas came to Port Canaveral to get 352 more crew members vaccinated, and Explorer of the Seas had 182 of their crew members getting their second Pfizer shot.

Port Canaveral is one of at least three U.S. ports welcoming cruise ships in so that its crew members can get vaccinated.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees approved an expansion to vaccine eligibility in Florida to include individuals who are in the state for purpose of providing good or services for the benefit of residents and visitors of Florida.

The vaccine is a critical part of Royal Caribbean's restart plans to ensure its ships can be as clean and safe for everyone onboard.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain reiterated his company's plan to get the crew ready for cruises during a video update this week, "we intend to vaccinate all of our crew. That process has already started and we expect that essentially one hundred percent of crew members will receive their vaccines before the cruise starts in the US."

In addition to the crew members, all adults over the age of 16 on North American sailings will need to be vaccinated in order to go on a cruise before August 1.  After August 1, that age restriction drops to 12 years old.

Royal Caribbean quickly made the decision to require the vaccine after months of saying no decision had been made, and changing rules might have played  a part in that decision.

The  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been revising its rules for cruise ships, dropping many requirements for guests who are fully vaccinated.

Just this week, the CDC relaxed mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines for fully vaccinated passengers.

To that point, Mr. Fain was excited about the limited restrictions on a cruise ship thanks to the lowered requirements for vaccinated passengers and crew, "We're optimistic that masks won't be required anywhere if you're vaccinated."

"As we restart, there will be some more restrictions than before, but we expect there will be temporary and similar to what we've all become used to on land."

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