As soon as Friday, Feb. 25, most fully vaccinated cruise passengers on Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean will not be required to wear masks indoors on ships.
Cruise lines were under scrutiny when omicron outbreaks started occurring onboard amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus variant in December and January. But COVID-19 case numbers have dropped across the country and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently lowered its travel warning status for cruising, prompting cruise lines to drop the indoor mask mandate.
The CDC also recently changed its voluntary sailing order, a set of pandemic safety guidelines for cruise ships operating in U.S. waters, which now says that passengers don’t have to wear masks on ships when at least 95% of crew members and passengers over age 5 are vaccinated.
Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian officials each announced intentions to lift the mask requirements on their respective cruises.
Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley said, in a Facebook post on Friday, the change will go into effect starting with sailings from the United States on Feb. 25.
“The updated protocols will include face masks being optional for all fully vaccinated guests and expected for unvaccinated children,” Bayley said.
Carnival made a similar announcement on Friday, saying for all cruises departing after March 1, masks would be recommended but not required on board, with some exceptions in specific venues.
“The public health situation has continued to improve, providing confidence about these changes,” Carnival’s CEO Christine Duffy said in the statement.
Norwegian officials also said they would be dropping mask mandates starting March 1 for sailings leaving from U.S. ports. Masks still will be required indoors for NCL cruises leaving from European ports, due to local government laws.
The CDC still warns that cruising is “not a zero-risk activity,” and that, “the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters onboard ships and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is high, even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.”
Although cruise operators are now officially relaxing mask requirements, many passengers on recent cruises have said face-covering rules onboard were seldom enforced.
Source: El Financiero