Holland America Line has contacted guests booked on upcoming cruises to let them know that face masks are now required onboard selected sailings
Affected voyages are in Alaska, and the re-implementation of the mandate is due to an abundance of caution as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the region.
Masks Now Required Onboard and on Tours
Guests on impacted Alaska sailings have received email notifications of the changes to Holland America Line’s face mask policy.
The email reads, “Out of an abundance of caution due to the rise in positive COVID-19 cases throughout Alaska, all guests will be required to wear face masks at all times while indoors onboard during your cruise, except when eating or drinking or when in their staterooms.”
Masks are also highly recommended outdoors, both onboard and while ashore, particularly when physical distancing is not possible.
The email clarifies that “masks are also required on all cruise line-sponsored transportation, such as motorcoaches and rail.”
This means guests exploring Alaska via Holland America Line shore tours or cruisetours must also wear masks, not just onboard the cruise ship.
This new policy does not apply to all Holland America Line sailings worldwide, but appears restricted just to selected Alaska voyages at the moment. The cruise line’s website still states that masks are only recommended onboard, even for Alaska sailings, but may be required in certain venues or events.
Guests booked on upcoming Alaska sailings should contact the cruise line or their travel agent for information and requirements specific to their voyage.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Masks have been a controversial issue for months, but Holland America Line is being clear that anyone not following the policy may be subject to severe penalties.
“Guests who do not comply with this mandate may not be permitted to board the ship or may be disembarked,” the email reads.
Different cruise lines have had different responses to guests’ concerns when policies are abruptly changed. Guests may reach out to Holland America Line’s customer service representatives if they have difficulty with this policy change, but the cruise line’s cruise contract clearly states the following (sections 6b and 6c):
“You acknowledge that [the cruise line’s COVID-19 Guest Protocols] may change from time-to-time,” including “mandatory use by each Guest (except for children under the age of 2 years) of face masks in most locations outside of the Guest’s stateroom while on board, during embarkation, disembarkation and shore excursions.”
Furthermore, the details of failure to comply with protocols are also outlined in the contract, and include that if guests fail to adhere to the cruise line’s policies, they “shall not be entitled to a refund or compensation of any kind.”
Cases Onboard Holland America Ships and in Alaska
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) cruise ship color status chart, six of the seven Holland America Line ships currently operating in U.S. waters are listed as “orange” status.
This indicates cases onboard and the CDC is investigating, but additional health and safety measures are not required – though the cruise line does have the discretion to implement such policies.
Only Westerdam is currently listed as “green” status with no reported cases onboard. Westerdam is the last of the cruise line’s ships to resume service after the global pandemic shutdown, and only welcomed her first passengers aboard yesterday – June 12, 2022.
The Vista-class ship is sailing 7-night roundtrip Alaska itineraries from Seattle, but may still be subject to the increased precautions due to rising cases in the region.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s tracking data, COVID-19 positive cases are rising in Alaska, with the popular cruise destinations of Sitka, Juneau, and Ketchikan having particularly high rates of new cases – some of the highest in the state, from 79-185 new daily cases reported per 100,000 people.
Masking Remains Fluid for All Cruises
As all major cruise lines continue to adapt to changing travel restrictions, health protocols, and local guidelines, mask policies onboard different ships are always subject to change.
Ultimately, each individual cruise ship’s captain and medical staff will make the determination about onboard masks, particularly if cases are reported during a particular sailing.
Onboard Princess Cruises’ Island Princess earlier this month, for example, mandatory face masks were re-implemented “out of an abundance of caution.”
At this time, travelers should always be prepared to wear masks as required, whether onboard a ship, during a tour, or when visiting local attractions or businesses. Mandates may change quickly, and even if masks were not required when a ship set sail, they may be required later in the voyage.