(Business Insider).- Several cruise lines have started announcing vaccination requirements for guests and crew members as the industry looks to restart after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, cruise ships that were mid-trip began facing COVID-19 related turmoils as the virus began trickling around the world, leaving passengers stuck, infected, or dead. Shortly after, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a no-sail order, which was later replaced by its “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,” a compilation of protocols needed for cruising to resume again.
Despite this new framework – and pent-up demand for highly anticipated cruise ships and trips – the official return of cruising still remains in limbo. Presently, no major US cruises will be welcoming passengers until May, but companies are constantly extending this pause on sailing.
However, as the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be distributed across the globe, this could soon change.
“If we start to see vaccines become more widely available, and if the vaccines are being administered in a far more efficient manner than they have been, I think it would be reasonable for the cruise lines to say a vaccine is required,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst and president of the Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider in an interview.
However, vaccine rollout and accessibility has been a notorious struggle around the world. As a result, Harteveldt notes that it may be “counterproductive” for major cruise lines like Carnival and Norwegian to require its guests to receive the vaccine if sailings actually resume in the next few months instead of later in the year, say July.
But over the last month, cruise lines have become increasingly vocal about the vaccine. While some companies – such as Carnival and its Holland America line – are “reviewing” the different vaccines, several others have already announced vaccination protocols for guests and crew members.
These are all the cruise lines with vaccine-related mandates so far:
On January 21, United Kingdom-based Saga Cruises announced that it would require all of its passengers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks before a trip. Saga primarily caters to passengers over 50-years-old.
Royal Caribbean expects to require its crew members to receive the vaccine before sailings return, a spokesperson told Insider.
On March 1, the cruise line also announced its first “fully vaccinated” cruise aboard the Odyssey of the Seas, which will be sailing in May from Israel. Both crew members and guests over 16 years old will have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to sail on the upcoming cruise.
“Royal Caribbean’s decision to come to Israel is a significant expression of confidence in our policy,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in the press release announcing the cruise. “Just as we made Israel the world champion in vaccines, we will make it the world champion in economics and tourism in the post-coronavirus era.”
On February 18, Crystal Cruises said it would require guests to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before a cruise. The cruise line is also requiring a negative coronavirus test result from travelers and crew members, among other health protocols.
“We know that peace of mind is the greatest luxury, and the vaccine requirement is simply the best way to ensure the safest possible Crystal Experience for all on board,” Jack Anderson, the cruise line’s interim president and CEO, said in a press release.
Hornblower Group’s “overnight” cruise lines
Hornblower Group’s American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines have both announced requirements for guests and crew members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine for sailings starting July 1.
According to John Waggoner, CEO and founder of American Queen Steamboat Company, requiring the vaccine will ensure the “safest cruising experience possible.” However, the cruise lines is are still looking to resume sailing in April, prior to this vaccination deadline.
Norwegian Cruise Line and Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Norwegian Cruise Line and its Regent Seven Seas Cruises have announced COVID-19 vaccine requirements for crew members prior to boarding. However, the cruise lines are still “exploring all options” in regards to vaccination requirements for its guests, according to the cruise lines’ statements sent to Insider.
Richard Branson’s adults-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages, has announced it will be making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for both guests and crew in order to “provide the safest travel experience,” Tom McAlpin, Virgin Voyages’ CEO, said in an email statement sent to Insider.
“The is a step towards the safe return to sailing and is the right decision for Virgin Voyages,” McAlpin said in the statement. “We’re really encouraged by the latest rollout plans in the May time frame from the new administration, and we know the future is about vaccinations. Our business makes us uniquely set up to do this with testing and vaccine travel requirements.”
On March 17, P&O Cruises – owned by Carnival Corp – announced a summertime Ultimate Escape cruise collection that will sail along the UK coast. However, the cruises will only be available to UK residents who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at least seven days before the trip.
The decision to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for guests was based on the “advanced progress of the UK vaccination program and strong expressed preference on the part of our guests,” P&O said in a press release.
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Source: Business Insider