Twice a month travel news from Charting Memories Travel
They’re back! Cruising from US ports that is.
The Celebrity Edge departed from Fort Lauderdale last Saturday on a seven day trip to Mexico and the Bahamas. It is the first large ship to sail from the US with paying passengers since the start of the pandemic. Who would have thought that the entire industry would have been forced to sit idle for 470 days?
Limited itineraries opened in Europe, Asia and the South Pacific last summer. About 400,000 passengers aboard these ships with only about 70 covid cases being reported and that was before widespread vaccinations were available. I bet it would be very difficult to test people on land and find any place that has only a 0.00175% positivity rate. Mexico and the Bahamas have been welcoming guests from the US for months with Mexico opening to tourists over a year ago. It is nice to see that cruise ships are finally getting the opportunity to return to service.
What does this mean if you want to cruise now?
Things in the industry are changing fast. What I write this morning may be different this afternoon so it is important to remain flexible and work with a professional who can help guide you. For the most part, vaccinations are going to be required for passengers. Current restrictions range from everyone on board will be required to be vaccinated to vaccinations are highly recommended but not required.
Cruising is going to be different than it was a year and a half ago and some of the differences that you see will depend on your vaccination status. This will not be a vaccination debate; I will just highlight some of the differences that people will see. The decisions are yours and the cruise lines (with input from countless others). Requirements are also going to depend on when and where you are sailing from.
Royal Caribbean has stated that if you are sailing from Florida then vaccinations are not required but are highly recommended, but they are incentivizing passengers to be vaccinated. If you choose to not show proof, then there will be extra testing required and it will be charged to the guest. The fee is dependent on the length of the cruise but starts at about $138 per person. The newest announcement is that those who are not vaccinated will also be required to have insurance that covers covid related medical expenses, quarantine and medical evacuation coverage. Those guests will also be required to wear masks in public places and will have different show and dining areas than the rest of the guests. If children are too young to get the vaccination, then they will not be charged the additional testing fee but will still have to follow the other restrictions. The guests who choose to show that they are vaccinated will see a cruise very similar to what they are familiar with the major exception being in the buffet where someone will serve the food for you.
The newest announcement is that those who are not vaccinated will also be required to have insurance that covers covid related medical expenses, quarantine and medical evacuation coverage.
On the opposite end of the restriction spectrum is Norwegian Cruise Line. They are requiring everyone to show proof of vaccination. There are no exceptions for age or health conditions. The major advantage for guests is that they will experience almost no noticeable restrictions. There will still be testing before boarding but it will not be at an additional cost. The ships will be sailing at limited capacity but there will not be a mask requirement, venues will be open to everyone and social distancing will not be required. There will be far fewer children onboard compared to normal since young children are not yet eligible. This is a definite drawback for families with young children, but for others, this may be a strong positive.
The other lines are falling in between these two. Nearly everyone will need to be vaccinated. Small numbers of exceptions are being made for children and those with special health or religious concerns. The exceptions will be less than 5% of the total passengers on board.
How long will it take to get cruising back to what it was a couple of years ago? No one noes. Some of the changes may be permanent while others may go away this afternoon. New restrictions may be added. The cruise lines want to make sure that guests are as safe as possible while providing an atmosphere that is as fun and restriction free as possible. This is a new process for everyone involved so expect many steps forward and a few steps back. This is a highly scrutinized industry so they need to get this right or cruising may never truly return. Not every decision made is going to be popular with everyone, but in the long run the industry can return to pre-pandemic heights.
If you are ready to start planning your next cruise (or non-cruise vacation) let me know. The demand is high, and prices are climbing rapidly. Lock your rates in now so you are not waving goodbye from the pier.
JULY 22 @6:00 PM
Keep Charting Memories.