Earlier this month, the CDC made a major move in cruising. It retired its voluntary program providing the rules and protocols for ships to sail again. Instead, the health agency will still monitor the situation, but declared that cruise lines had the tools and the knowledge to form their own Covid rules.
At that time, we mentioned that the move likely meant pre-boarding testing rules would be eased in the near future. Before the change, every passenger was required to take a Covid test 2-3 days prior to arriving at the terminal and show a negative result.
Already some lines — including Virgin Voyages — have said they will drop their testing requirement to get on the ship. Now one of the biggest players in cruising is relaxing (though not completely removing) their test requirements. And a comment made also makes us wonder if vaccination requirements could be on the chopping block in the future.
Relaxed Rules Surrounding Pre-Cruise Testing
Royal Caribbean released their latest financial results this morning for the second quarter of 2022. Within that release were updates on everything from ship occupancy (82% overall, with Caribbean itineraries averaging over 100%) to financial results to booking trends.
But buried within that release was also an important update on the cruise company’s testing policies:
“Starting Aug. 8, testing will be required for unvaccinated guests on all voyages and for vaccinated guests only on voyages that are six nights or longer,” the press release stated.
At this point, most passengers sailing on Royal Caribbean ships are vaccinated. The vaccine is required for passengers over 12. Those under that age can sail without the shot.
So on short getaways the testing requirement will be dropped for most people. Those sailing without vaccination will still need to be tested before boarding.
At this time, Royal Caribbean is the first of the “big three” cruise companies (Royal Caribbean Group, Carnival Corporation, and NCL Holdings) to announce a relaxation of their testing rules.
Is Dropping a Vaccine Rule Also Being Considered?
While the new rules around testing are significant, another statement from the company makes us wonder if vaccination rules could be relaxed in the coming weeks or months.
Within the same statement announcing the new test rules, the cruise company also said it was “transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us…”
“Last week, the CDC ended its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships. Based on this change, we are continuing to adapt our protocols to align more closely with how the rest of society and other travel and leisure businesses are operating. This means that we’re transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us while always working with our destination partners to meet their regulations.”
Note that there is no specific mention of vaccines. However, by including “everyone” in the statement, it certainly sounds to us like that points toward more relaxed vaccine rules. About two-thirds of U.S. adults are vaccinated, leaving a significant percentage of the public without the shot.
As well, allowing unvaccinated passengers to cruise would also “align more closely” with how other travel businesses run. For example, to travel to Mexico or The Bahamas from the United States, there is no vaccine requirement at this time (although The Bahamas does require unvaccinated passengers to test).
To be sure, there isn’t any specific mention regarding dropping vaccine rules. Still, this statement from the cruise company certainly caught our attention.