CDC Relaxes Mask Rules for Vaccinated Cruise Passengers

Last week, we shared with you some of the rules the CDC recently issued regarding health protocols that must be in place on cruise ships sailing from the United States.

Most notably, we told you how the new Operations Manual issued by the CDC laid out draconian requirements for mask usage on the ship.

Empty cruise ship pool
Revised rules say cruise lines don’t have to require masks outdoors for vaccinated passengers.

While most passengers fully expect to have to wear masks in at least some areas of the ship — such as indoors — the CDC rules specifically said that masks still had to be worn when outdoors at the pool area. The rules also said that masks must be worn during “extended meal service or beverage consumption.”

What’s more, the rules applied even if distancing was in place and even if the passenger was vaccinated.

Now, just days later, the agency has already made a major change to these mask rules and other items listed in its manual for cruises. In short, if you are vaccinated, then you can now expect some looser restrictions for life on the ship.

No More Masks By the Pool (For Some Passengers)

When we read the original rules from the CDC, it immediately jumped out that masks were required by the pool. 

Here’s a look at what the order said previously:

That section of the Operations Manual has now been updated, along with a few other items. It no longer specifically mentions wearing a mask by a pool. It also says cruise lines can allow fully-vaccinated passengers to “gather or conduct activities outdoors” without wearing a mask.

In other words, if a fully-vaccinated cruise sets sail, then masks likely won’t be required by the cruise line while enjoying the pool area (except in “crowded settings”). As well, if the “extended” meal service or drinking is outdoors, no mask is required there, either.

Take a look at the adjusted rules:

Other Changes for Vaccinated Travelers

We noted last week how the Operations Manual from the CDC seemingly ignored the prevalence of vaccines among Americans.

The previous rules that were first issued mentioned vaccines sparingly, and that was only to say masks were still required for fully-vaccinated passengers. It certainly seemed odd to not include more relaxed rules for those that have been dosed given the much lower risk of spread.

The adjusted rules, however, mention different rules for vaccinated passengers multiple times. First are the rules regarding masks outdoors. Second is that vaccinated passengers can now go ashore on their own.

Previous rules called for passengers to be allowed ashore only in groups organized or approved by the cruise line to ensure that health protocols were followed.

Now, those who’ve received the jab will have more freedom in port. After all, Americans are free to fly to a port like Nassau and explore on their own, but vaccinated passengers wouldn’t be allowed to do that from a cruise ship under the previous requirements.

Common Sense Changes, But Still More to Overcome

There’s no doubt these new rules bring some common sense changes to what’s allowed on a ship if vaccinated. We previously described requiring a vaccinated passenger to wear a mask outdoors by the pool when distanced as “insanity.”

After all, what is the point of taking a cruise when you could simply stay on land and enjoy the sun, sea, and food without all the rigid rules? Furthermore, Las Vegas casinos are opening at 100%, sporting events are packed, and many restaurants and bars are back to operating as normal before the pandemic. 

Add to that the fact that lines are offering safeguards against the virus that no one else is implementing. With many cruises requiring the shot to sail — and testing all passengers before boarding — lines are taking measures that aren’t in place at a casino, a hotel, or even at the grocery store.

As for now, however, the wait to get back to cruising continues. There is still a sliver of hope that cruises will return to sailing from the United States in July. That’s only two months away at this point. Carnival has already cancelled the majority of its trips until August, and Norwegian Cruise Lines has said it won’t sail until at least then either.

A return of cruising is on the horizon, but there are still plenty of hurdles to overcome to get back to sailing.

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