Royal Caribbean’s announcement is a reversal from previous statements and vaccination protocols that the company had previously submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in May. Back then, Royal Caribbean stated firmly that it would require all passengers at least 18 years of age to be vaccinated. (Related: Royal Caribbean to ban unvaccinated adults from cruise ships this June, turning their cruise ships into floating super strain factories.)
Now, the company said it will strongly recommend passengers get vaccinated, but will not require it.
“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,” said the company.
Royal Caribbean’s statement regarding vaccination protocols also alerted Americans that the cruise line was once again setting sail from U.S. ports this summer, starting with the MS Freedom of the Seas, which will depart from the Port of Miami on July 2.
Gov. Ron DeSantis forced businesses to back down from requiring vaccines
The sudden reversal of Royal Caribbean’s vaccination policy may have been influenced by Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The governor recently signed a law that could fine cruise lines like Royal Caribbean up to $5,000 for each person who is required to present proof of vaccination against COVID-19.
This recently passed law was crafted by Republican state lawmakers, who control the state legislature. It prohibits government entities, schools and businesses across Florida from asking anybody to present proof of COVID-19 vaccination. The law, which takes effect on July 1, can fine businesses up to $5,000 per violation.
A spokeswoman for DeSantis told The Epoch Times in an email that he “has been leading the fight for the cruise industry to operate since last year, and he has been working with the cruise lines so that they will be able to set sail soon in compliance with Florida law.”
In a statement, Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley thanked DeSantis and other elected officials for supporting the cruise industry, which was shut down in March 2020 after the first COVID-19 outbreaks and deaths on many cruise ships.
“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,” said Bayley in his statement. The company added that it will still be requiring all of its employees to get vaccinated.
Lynn Sierra-Caro, a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean International, clarified the company’s previous plan to require passengers to be vaccinated. She said this mandate only applied to its “test cruises.” These cruises are required by the CDC to go on trial voyages as it gradually eases its rules governing the cruise industry. The CDC has so far authorized nine cruise ships, including Freedom of the Seas, for test cruises.
According to the CDC, cruise lines that do not meet the agency’s vaccination thresholds for both passengers and crew must first do a successful test cruise before they can restart full operations and revenue cruises. The CDC’s threshold is for 95 percent of passengers and 98 percent of the crew to be vaccinated.
“Our intention is to comply with all federal, state and local laws,” said Sierra-Caro.
Unvaccinated guests will still face restrictions, higher costs
During a webinar with travel agents, Royal Caribbean said it plans to treat its unvaccinated passengers differently.
The company said its plans could change. But during the webinar, it said that unvaccinated passengers sailing from Florida can expect extra fees that will not be part of the initial cruise fare. In one of its slides, this is what the company said its protocols are regarding cruises departing from Florida:
“It is strongly recommended that guests set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible. Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccinatation will be required to undergo testing, be responsible for any expenses incurred and follow other protocols. These expenses are still being finalized.”
Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President Vicki Freed explained that the exact extra costs unvaccinated individuals will incur are still not known because it is still being worked out.
Royal Caribbean Group – which owns the cruise line – Chairman and CEO Richard Fain clarified that there will be no additional costs for passengers under the age of 18 who are not eligible for the vaccine.
The company may also mandate other health protocols not outright banned by Florida law.
Learn more about how businesses are attempting to restart their operations and how many are attempting to require employees and patrons to get vaccinated by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news.