There are many parents out there who want to take their kids on a cruise, but they are concerned about the possibility of their children getting sick. While it is true that they can get sick while on a cruise, there are many cruise ship companies that have vaccination policies in place to protect their patrons. Parents have total freedom when it comes to vaccinations on cruise ships, but there are some guidelines they should keep in mind.

The cruise industry has been a major player in the tourism and travel world for many years. From the days of the ocean liners, where people packed their bags and headed to destinations like the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and Bermuda in the 1960s, to the cruise lines today that offer a variety of cruise options from short- and mid-length cruises to extended cruises and cruises where the entire ship is a self-contained environment, the industry has seen many changes. Today’s cruise ships are more luxurious and feature many amenities for passengers, such as private balconies, but the cruise industry has also had to deal with new issues, such as the U.S. government’s recent mandated vaccinations.

Cruise lines face a complex problem when they resume operations: Federal health officials strongly recommend that the vast majority of guests and crew members be vaccinated, while new laws in two states prohibit airlines from asking passengers to disclose their vaccination status.

Cruise Line Vaccination Policies Complicated By New Laws

Celebrity Edge, EG, aero, ship exterior, water, ship, open ocean, view

Jim Walker, a Florida-based shipping and cruise lawyer, described the situation to USA TODAY as a complicated dance.

He says the industry is trying to accommodate two hosts with different agendas and perspectives, while trying to convince customers that it can provide a safe and fun experience.

On the one hand, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes it easier for cruise lines to reopen if they can confirm that 98 percent of the crew and 95 percent of the passengers are fully vaccinated.

Splitting of trades between two hosts

Cruise Line Vaccination Policies Complicated By New Laws

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

However, two states – Florida, the cruise capital of the world, and Texas, home of the popular port Galveston – have enacted laws that prohibit companies from requiring anyone to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

In Florida, a state where 60 percent of U.S. cruise passengers travel, cruise lines can be fined $5,000 if a passenger fails to confirm their vaccination.

It’s an odd situation, considering that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has supported legislation that would create new barriers to restarting the industry, while leading the state’s lawsuit against the CDC to demand that restrictions be lifted and operations resume more quickly.

What should a cruise line do when it is pulled in two directions?

You can ask a question…

Cruise Line Vaccination Policies Complicated By New Laws

Polar deck on Celebrity Edge (Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

In the case of Celebrity Cruises, a Royal Caribbean Group brand, a spokesperson told Seatrade Cruise News that the wording of Florida law states that companies cannot require guests or customers to produce documents. But that doesn’t mean they can’t ask questions.

We can ask, but we can’t ask for records, the spokesman said.

There are at least two other factors that make it difficult to resume cruises from U.S. ports. Consumer surveys show that most consumers want to travel with vaccinated pets.

Following the frightening media coverage of shipboard outbreaks in the early days of the pandemic, cruise lines want to ensure the safest possible environment, and many have decided that full vaccination of passengers and crew is the best solution at this time.

The creation of additional obstacles

Cruise Line Vaccination Policies Complicated By New Laws

Freedom of the Seas docks at Perfect Day in CocoCay. (Photo by Royal Caribbean)

The wording on Celebrity Cruises’ website shows that one of the ways to ensure a high percentage of vaccinated passengers is to discourage unvaccinated passengers from booking.

For flights within Florida – Customers who refuse or are unable to show proof of vaccination upon boarding will be treated as unvaccinated and will be subject to additional fees, restrictions and protocols that will be communicated once established.

Passengers over the age of 16 who cannot provide proof of vaccination must meet additional requirements at their own expense. This includes reporting at embarkation with a negative PCR test and undergoing antigenic testing at the pier, midway through the cruise and at the end of the cruise. At $178 per antigen test, that’s a pretty big deterrent.

Unvaccinated Celebrity passengers must wear a mask on board at all times except when eating and drinking, while vaccinated passengers and passengers under 16 years of age are not required to wear protective masks. In addition, local regulations do not allow unvaccinated passengers to disembark during stopovers.

Royal Caribbean is following a similar approach.

Most cruise travellers want to travel with vaccinated travel companions

Cruise Line Vaccination Policies Complicated By New Laws

Carnival Horizon (Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

While there is much talk on social media about those who oppose mandatory vaccination, it is becoming increasingly clear that most potential travelers feel safer in a vaccinated environment.

In a late May Harris Poll COVID survey of 19 people, a clear majority (63%) said they would be more likely to go on a cruise if the cruise line introduced mandatory vaccinations. Nearly 60% said that if they were to take a cruise, they would specifically look for a cruise line that requires full vaccinations for crew and passengers.

According to Forbes, a Florida poll found that only 24 percent of respondents agreed with Governor DeSantis’ position that cruise lines should not require customers to show proof of vaccination. The survey also showed that 43% of respondents think that proof of vaccination should be mandatory on cruise ships, while 33% think that cruise lines should be able to decide for themselves who is allowed on board.

Carnival’s Heald says vaccines helped restart

Cruise Line Vaccination Policies Complicated By New Laws

The Carnival Horizon will be one of the first ships to return to service for Carnival Cruise Line.

Carnival Cruise Line spokesman John Heald made some interesting comments in a recent Facebook Live video, stating that while he respects the decision of those who choose not to vaccinate, it was the development of effective vaccines that got the industry going again.

With all due respect: The freedom of sailing is there – whether you like it, believe in it or agree with it. Thanks to high vaccination rates, we can put the ships back on the water and fill them with fun sounds.

Heald also noted that while the situation is currently chaotic, it will not always be so.

The days will come – I don’t know when – but the days will come when we will no longer talk about who is vaccinated and who is not, but we will open the doors again, the doors to the driveway for everyone.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which cruise lines are not requiring vaccines?

Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Corporation & PLC, and Princess Cruises are not requiring vaccines for their cruises.

Why you shouldn’t go on a cruise?

You might get seasick.

What laws do cruise ships follow?

Cruise ships are required to follow the laws of the country they are in.

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