- Royal Caribbean announced on Friday that passengers will not be required to provide evidence of vaccination.
- This move is a reversal of the May policy, which imposes vaccines on all passengers over the age of 16.
- The policy for ships in Florida and Texas states that it has recently passed laws against vaccination requirements.
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Royal Caribbean cruises are back, but vaccinations are optional.
The travel company announced on Friday that six more ships would resume voyages from US ports in Florida and Texas, starting in July and August. A statement from Royal Caribbean said that while all crew members would be vaccinated against COVID-1
“Those who are not vaccinated or cannot check the vaccination will have to undergo tests and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date,” Royal Caribbean said on Friday.
The decision is a sharp reversal of the vaccine company’s original mandate, announced last month, which required vaccinations for all passengers over the age of 16 on ships sailing from the United States and the Bahamas.
“The combination of vaccines and testing and contact tracking, all these types of protocols, really help us achieve our goal, which is to make travel safer than in your community,” Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean, told Bee BBC in May. “We want you to be more comfortable walking on a ship than walking down Main Street.”
Following Friday’s announcement, the Royal Caribbean’s FAQ page has been updated to show that the vaccines will only be needed for ships departing from Seattle, Washington and the Bahamas.
The turnaround comes after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ efforts to ban vaccine requirements, including a recently passed bill that fines businesses $ 5,000 each time they ask for proof of vaccination. A similar policy banning certain companies from requesting a vaccine test was introduced by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott 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 signing of the bill last month.
Florida policy is due to take effect on July 1, as US cruise ships begin sailing for the first time in a year due to the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously stopped cruise operations – which became early outbreaks of the virus – from sailing in March 2020.
Under current CDC regulations, cruise lines may resume operations provided their crew is fully vaccinated and completes a test trip with volunteers to demonstrate their ability to provide safety protocols. A ship may miss the test by adhering to the vaccine threshold, which requires a total of 95% of employees and passengers to be vaccinated.
In a statement, Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bailey thanked Governor DeSantis and colleagues in Florida for “their unwavering support for our industry.” Although he removed the evidence of a vaccination requirement, he cited the company’s data, according to which 90% of Royal Caribbean users are “either vaccinated or plan to be vaccinated in time for their cruise.”
“That’s it. Vacationers can finally plan to spend their precious time this summer and really get away with what has been a challenge for everyone,” Bailey said in a statement. “I would like to sincerely thank our guests and travel partners for their incredible patience and understanding during this very difficult period.”