Carnival to require first passengers to have COVID-19 vaccines when its cruises restart in July
Carnival Cruise Line will require passengers on its first sailings in July out of Galveston, Texas, to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
If the policy remains in effect for Carnival's upcoming sailings out Port Canaveral and other Florida ports, it would put the cruise giant at odds with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The governor opposes the system of requiring so-called "vaccine passports," and has filed legal action against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention related to the federal agency's requirements for a return to sailing.
Cruises have not sailed from U.S. ports with passengers since March 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In other developments:
- Royal Caribbean says it plans to resume sailing from Port Canaveral in August, with two ships. It is recommending — but not requiring, passengers — to have COVID-19 vaccines.
- Norwegian Cruise Line plans to resume sailing from Port Canaveral in November, with one ship. At this point, Norwegian is requiring its passengers to be vaccinated.
Carnival on Monday confirmed its plans to return to cruise operations from the Port of Galveston on July 3 with Carnival Vista, followed by the return of operations on Carnival Breeze on July 15.
Carnival said these cruises will be available for passengers who have received their final dose of a CDC-approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination, in accordance with current CDC guidelines.
In announcing the policy, Carnival President Christine Duffy said: "We appreciate the progress and support for our U.S. restart from the CDC and other key federal agencies. However, the current CDC requirements for cruising with a guest base that is unvaccinated will make it very difficult to deliver the experience our guests expect, especially given the large number of families with younger children who sail with us. As a result, our alternative is to operate our ships from the U.S. during the month of July with vaccinated guests."
The other Carnival ship and port identified for a July restart is Carnival Horizon from PortMiami.
Carnival said it "continues to work with both the state of Florida and the CDC for Carnival Horizon sailings, and plans to provide an update by Friday concerning protocols specific to these sailings to all booked guests."
Carnival also said it will be advising passengers and travel agents about its plans for August sailings in the coming days.
Among the Carnival ships that could be part of that announcement is its newest ship, the Mardi Gras, which arrived at Port Canaveral on Friday and will be offering seven-night sailings from there to ports in the Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean International plans to resume sailing from Port Canaveral in August, with two ships offering a variety of itineraries.
- The cruise line said the Allure of the Seas will sail from Port Canaveral, starting Aug. 8, with seven-night eastern and western Caribbean itineraries.
- In addition, the Mariner of the Seas will sail from Port Canaveral, starting Aug. 23, with three- and four-night sailings to Bahamas, including Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas, which it calls Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Royal Caribbean said its passengers are "strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible" for a COVID-19 vaccine. But Royal Caribbean is not requiring vaccinations on most of its early cruises.
The cruise line said passengers 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.
Among the exceptions is Royal Caribbean passengers sailing from Seattle to Alaska. Passengers on those cruises who are 16 and older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as are those 12 and older as of Aug. 1.
Royal Caribbean said it is "continuing discussions with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and multiple state, local and port authorities in the U.S. and with various destination communities regarding the various requirements for the upcoming sailings."
The current process "requires each ship to complete a 'simulation cruise' before receiving approval to resume sailing once again from U.S. ports," Royal Caribbean said. "The applications for simulation cruises are under review, and receiving approvals on a rolling basis."
These simulation cruises, also known as test sailings, are done with volunteer, non-paying passengers.
Royal Caribbean said it would share updates on measures with passengers and travel agents before departure dates.
Royal Caribbean International President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bayley said 90% of all vacationers booking with Royal Caribbean are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise.
Bayley said all Royal Caribbean crew members will be vaccinated against COVID-19.
"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 a statement, as Royal Caribbean announced its summer sailings.
In addition to the sailings out of Port Canaveral, these are Royal Caribbean announced sailings out of U.S. ports:
- Freedom of the Seas: Three- and four-night sailings from Miami to the Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, starting July 2.
- Odyssey of the Seas: Six- and eight-night sailings from Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades to the southern and western Caribbean, starting July 3. Odyssey is Royal Caribbean's newest ship, and this will be its first sailings with paying passengers.
- Serenade of the Seas: Seven-night sailings from Seattle to Alaska, starting July 19.
- Ovation of the Seas: Seven-night sailings from Seattle to Alaska, starting Aug. 13.
- Symphony of the Seas: Seven-night sailings from Miami to the eastern and western Caribbean, starting Aug. 14.
- Independence of the Seas: Seven-night sailings from Galveston, Texas, to the western Caribbean, starting Aug. 15.
Royal Caribbean also has announced a number of sailings from ports outside the United States, including:
- Adventure of the Seas: Seven-night sailings from Nassau, the Bahamas, to the Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico, starting June 12.
- Anthem of the Seas: Sailings from the Southampton, England, on various itineraries, starting July 7.
- Jewel of the Seas: Seven-night sailings from the Limassol, Cyprus, to the Greek islands starting July 10.
- Harmony of the Seas: Seven-night sailings from Barcelona, Spain, and Venice, Italy, to the western Mediterranean, starting Aug. 15.
Royal Caribbean said passengers departing from an international port must meet the travel requirements of their home country and the country of departure.
Cruises on other Royal Caribbean ships are canceled through the end of August. The cruise line said it is contacting booked guests impacted by the cancellations with details specific to their sailing, including the option to receive a full refund.
Full fleet around the globe
In its announcement, Royal Caribbean said, in the coming weeks, it "will announce its plans to reintroduce its full fleet around the globe by year’s end."
Bayley also thanked DeSantis, as well as officials at Port Canaveral and in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, "for their steadfast support of our industry, and for providing access to vaccines to the thousands of crew on our ships off the Eastern Seaboard. This act of understanding and humanity has been deeply appreciated, and we are grateful for their support, which is enabling the health and safety of our guests, crew members and the communities we visit.”
For example, last weekend, about 1,400 crew members of the Odyssey of the Seas were vaccinated while the ship was docked at Port Canaveral.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line announced Monday that its first ship sailing from Port Canaveral will be the Norwegian Escape, offering seven-night itineraries to the Caribbean, beginning Nov. 13.
Norwegian said voyages expected to operate from U.S. ports are contingent on obtaining a conditional sailing certificate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"All initial voyages will operate with fully vaccinated guests and crew," Norwegian said in a statement.
Among other deployment plans announced Monday by Norwegian Cruise Line are these:
- Norwegian Gem will cruise seven-day itineraries to the Caribbean beginning Aug. 15, and a four-day voyage to the Bahamas in November from Miami.
- Additional itineraries on Norwegian Breakaway are open for sale to Bermuda, starting Sept. 26, from New York.
- Norwegian Bliss will sail Oct. 24 to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles.
- In addition, the Norwegian Encore, the newest ship in the line’s fleet, will make its debut on the West Coast, taking the place of the previously announced Norwegian Bliss for the 2021 summer Alaska cruise season. The Alaska itinerary will include visits to Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, while also offering passengers views of Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier or Glacier Bay.
In his announcement, Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., thanked DeSantis and the state of Florida "for fighting in support of our industry. His leadership helped bring the CDC to the table."
Del Rio said Norwegian officials "are currently in communication with his staff and legal counsel to ensure that we can offer the safest cruise experience for our passengers departing from the cruise capital of the world."
In all, Del Rio said, 23 of the 28 ships across his company's three brands — Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruise — have phased-in deployment plans from July through early-2022.
Disney, MSC Cruises
Disney Cruise Line and MSC Cruises have not yet announced their plans to resume sailings with paying passengers from Port Canaveral.
Disney, however, is planning a June 29-July 1 test sailing from Port Canaveral aboard the Disney Dream, with a limited number of Disney employees as the only passengers.
Dave Berman is business editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @bydaveberman.
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