Is the end of masks on cruise ships on the horizon? While things will surely change should there be another wave of the virus, for now at least, cruise lines are quickly phasing out mask requirements onboard ships.
This includes the latest announcements from Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean — two of the largest and most popular cruise lines on the planet.
Carnival Loosening Mask Rules March 1
Starting with cruises leaving March 1 and later, Carnival now says that “masks are recommended on board but not required.” The cruise line does say that there may be some “venues and events” that require a mask, but didn’t specify what those might be.
In addition, children under five years old will now be able to sail without requiring an exemption. However, the cruise line still plans to adhere to having vaccinated cruises, where 95%+ of passengers are vaccinated. Kids under five will no longer be part of this calculation.
“The public health situation has continued to improve, providing confidence about these changes,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “Our protocols will evolve as we continue to remain dedicated to protecting the public health of our guests, crew and the communities we visit.”
Royal Caribbean Also Dropping Mask Rules
Carnival isn’t alone in this change. Royal Caribbean initially eased their mask requirement starting February 14. At that time, masks were still required, but not when in areas of the ship designated for vaccinated guests only, such as the casino.
Now in an email sent to upcoming passengers, the cruise line says that starting February 25, masks are optional for anyone that is fully vaccinated:
Royal Caribbean International will participate in the U.S. CDC’s voluntary COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships Operating in U.S. waters, beginning with sailings departing on or after February 25th, 2022 from the U.S. (including Puerto Rico). We will be operating under the Highly Vaccinated category defined by the CDC.
To be considered Highly Vaccinated, requirements include sailing with 95% of crew members fully vaccinated, which we already meet with 100% of our crew. And, 95% of guests eligible for the vaccine must be fully vaccinated as well.
The updated protocols will include face masks being optional for all fully vaccinated guests and expected for unvaccinated children. All kids will be required to wear face masks during Adventure Ocean youth program activities.
We are thoughtfully working through the details and other changes to our health and safety measures to share with our guests and travel advisors before February 25, 2022.
As a reminder, our health and safety protocols are subject to change.
It’s not just the biggest lines changing their requirements. This trend toward no longer requiring masks is quickly spreading across most lines. All of the following cruise lines plan to significantly ease masking rules in the coming weeks:
- Norwegian Cruise Line | March 1: Masks will no longer be required.
- Holland America | March 1: Masks will no longer be required, except in certain venues and events.
- Celebrity Cruises | February 12: Masks no longer required except in the theater or casino
- Virgin Voyages | February 27: Masks will no longer be required.
One thing to note is that these rules apply only to your time on the ship. Masks are still required in cruise terminals during embarkation and debarkation due to federal mandates.
So don’t toss that mask just yet. You’ll need to have it on as you transit the terminal, but can then remove it once on the ship if your cruise line allows. As well, it could be that local rules in ports of call require passengers to wear masks.
Even so, this seems to be a small victory for returning to normal as the virus cases plummet both on land and at sea. Keep in mind that policies can change should cases spike, but for now the trend toward going maskless is picking up steam.