By Nasha Smith • Jun 8, 2021 – (Source: www.travelnoire.com) – Royal Caribbean has changed course on its requirement that passengers be fully COVID-19 vaccinated to sail aboard its cruises.
In announcing that six of its ships will begin sailing from major U.S. cruise ports in Florida and Texas starting July 2nd, the company stated that all crew members will be fully vaccinated but “guests are strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated if they are eligible. Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date.”
This is an about-face from last month’s initial mandate that required the COVID-19 vaccine for all passengers over 16 years old.
At the time, Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean’s CEO, told the BBC, “The combination of the vaccines and testing and contact tracing, all these kinds of protocols really helps us reach our objective, which is to make cruising safer than in your home community. We want you to be more comfortable walking onboard a ship than walking down Main Street.”
The change of heart comes as states like Florida and Texas push back against the adoption of ‘vaccine passports.’ Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis recently passed a bill that will impose a fine of $5,000 on any of the state’s businesses if they request proof of vaccination from customers. The anti-vaccine-passport law is set to take effect on July 1. Texas Governor Greg Abbott implemented a similar policy back in April.
“In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision,” DeSantis said during the bill signing last month.
Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley thanked DeSantis and Florida’s politicians for “their steadfast support of our industry” while also sharing that the majority of their customers planned to get vaccinated before joining their respective cruises.
“This is it. Vacationers can finally plan to take their precious time off this summer and truly get away after what has been a challenging time for everyone. I would like to sincerely thank our guests and travel partners for their incredible patience and understanding during this very difficult period,” said Bayley. “Thanks in large part to the successful rollout of vaccines, the world of adventure is beginning to open up, and we are all excited to start delivering great vacations to our guests, who have increasingly told us they are getting vaccinated. As of today, 90% of all vacationers booking with Royal Caribbean are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise.”