It’s the question many people are asking and the cruise line has quietly hinted at an answer.
Since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stopped tracking covid on cruise ships, the cruise lines have been quickly shedding their pandemic-era protocols (at least when it comes to passengers).
Masks are now fully optional on Royal Caribbean International (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report, and every other major cruise line that sails from ports in the United States.
Pre-cruise testing has also largely been dropped, at least for shorter cruises, and a lot of covid-related rules have been dropped by a variety of cruise destinations. There are exceptions — Canada and Bermuda still have stricter rules in place — and that forces the cruise lines to follow those protocols on sailings that hit those destinations.
In addition, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian have still maintained strict rules for crew members. All staff working onboard must be vaccinated, tested regularly, and masks remain a requirement in public areas. In addition, crew members continue to face other restrictions both onboard and in their ability to get off the ship when in port.
It’s fair to say that pandemic-related protocols have loosened and even mostly gone away for passengers, but one major rule remains in place. All the major cruise lines still require most, if not all, passengers age 12 and over to be vaccinated. Royal Caribbean loosened up those rules a bit allowing for some unvaccinated passengers that are not under the age of 12.
That’s a policy that may get even looser very soon.
Where Royal Caribbean Stands Now on Vaccines
In late-July Royal Caribbean modified its rules slightly allowing for a little more leeway on vaccines. President Michael Bayley shared the news on social, which was first reported by the Royal Caribbean Blog (which is not affiliated with the cruise line).
“Unvaccinated guests will be required to take one test within 3 days of departure. We will also continue to operate highly vaccinated cruises with a vaccinated population greater than society and which continues to exempt kids 12 and under and we will welcome unvaccinated guests over 12 and guests with a certificate of recovery within 90 days to travel keeping in mind our ships will typically sail with 80%-plus vaccinated guests onboard,” he shared.
People with a certificate of recovery is a pretty small audience and that’s not a major change in requiring vaccines. The company’s newly-released protocols do suggest a major change in vaccine requirements is coming soon.
Royal Caribbean Offers a Hint on Dropping Vax Requirement
The cruise line regularly updates its protocols by sending emails to passengers before their sailing and posting changes on its website. Now, Royal Caribbean has updated its website to suggest that it’s working towards a day where vaccines won’t be required.
“We are currently developing updated protocols that provide for the continued safety of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit, better align with the travel and hospitality sector, and meet destination regulations. This means we’re transitioning to the point where everyone will be able to vacation with us,” the company shared.
The word “vaccine” was never mentioned, but it’s heavily implied by the use of the word everyone. It’s likely that unvaccinated passengers will have to provide a negative test taken close to their sailing when the rule requiring vaccines is ultimately dropped.