Crew members will be fully vaccinated.
The just-announced cruises will depart from Florida, which has passed a law prohibiting companies from requiring proof of vaccination, and Texas, where lawmakers just passed a similar bill, according to the Texas Tribune.
Royal Caribbean did not answer a question about whether its decision not to require vaccinations for passengers was a result of the states’ bans. In a statement, the cruise line’s president and CEO, Michael Bayley, thanked elected officials including Gov. Ron DeSantis — whose staff has said cruise lines could be fined $5,000 per violation for requiring proof of vaccination — for their support and for helping crew get vaccinated.
“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,” Bayley said in the statement. “As of today, 90 percent of all vacationers booking with Royal Caribbean are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has kept cruise lines from U.S. sailings since March 2020, has recommended that passengers, crew and port workers be vaccinated. Under pandemic-era rules for restarting cruising, ships need to take volunteers on a test cruise to show they can mitigate the risks of covid-19. Cruise lines can skip that step if they will have 95 percent of crew and passengers vaccinated.
So far, the CDC has approved nine ships for test cruises, operated by Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises. Two ships, operated by Royal Caribbean sister line Celebrity Cruises, will go straight to voyages with paying passengers since the company has said it will meet the vaccine threshold. Norwegian Cruise Line, which has not been approved to restart, has said it will initially require everyone on board to be vaccinated.
Royal Caribbean will require vaccinations for some cruises: ships leaving Seattle for Alaska this summer, those sailing from the Bahamas and ships leaving from other international ports. Royal Caribbean said it still needs to complete simulation cruises before getting approval for the sailings it announced Friday.
“This is it,” Bayley said in the statement. “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.”
It wasn’t clear Friday how many people would be able to sail on each of the just-announced cruises, which will visit the Caribbean and the Bahamas. The first is scheduled to depart Miami on July 2, with more joining the fleet through Aug. 23. Some ships can hold more than 5,400 passengers at two to a room.
Safety protocols for unvaccinated passengers have also not been announced. The CDC has said vaccinated cruise passengers can remove their masks outdoors unless they’re in a crowd.
“Booked guests will be provided full details specific to their port of departure before sailing,” Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Lyan Sierra-Caro said in an email. “Guests can rest assured that their health and safety are our top priority and measures will be communicated in a timely manner ahead of our return to sailing.”