With just a few days to go before Christmas, it is starting to look as though all major cruise lines are making amendments to their protocols. Seattle-based Holland America Line is the next to do so.
The Carnival-owned cruise line has adjusted its requirements for wearing a mask and strongly advises all guests over 16 years of age to obtain a COVID-19 booster vaccine shot if they are eligible. On top of that, the cruise line now also bans smoking inside the casinos. The new guidelines are in place effective immediately onboard all of its ships and will remain in place through March 2022.
Nearly all major cruise lines have now made masks mandatory onboard their ships; the next in line to do so is Seattle-based Holland America Line.
In a notice on the cruise line’s website, the company now states that guests are required to wear a mask at all times when inside the vessel. The statement reads as follows:
“All guests regardless of age will be required to wear face masks at all times in elevators and in all indoor areas of the ship, except when eating or drinking or in their staterooms. This includes wearing face masks before being seated in all dining venues and Lido Market, while dancing in public lounges and outdoors if in large gatherings and physical distancing cannot be maintained. Guests are recommended to use higher-grade masks indoors (such as surgical or KN95) that have two or more layers, completely cover the nose and mouth, fit snugly against the sides of the face and have a nose wire.”
The mask mandate is not the only health protocol guests will need to comply with should they wish to sail aboard a Holland America ship.
All guests were already required to be fully vaccinated and provide a negative viral COVID-19 test taken two days before sailing. On top of that, the cruise line also advises guests to obtain a COVID-19 booster vaccination, when eligible, at least seven days before the start of the cruise.
Holland America has now followed the rules implemented by Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises ships and banned smoking inside the company’s casinos onboard. While smoking itself does not spread COVID-19, the cruise line wants to prevent guests from removing their masks inside the casino.
Guests will now need to smoke their cigarettes and cigars at one of the outdoor smoking areas on the open decks. This measure will be in place until further notice, Holland America says.
The ships affected by the changes this week are MS Rotterdam, ms Nieuw Amsterdam, ms Nieuw Statendam, ms Koningsdam, ms Eurodam, and ms Zuiderdam. Five ships in the Holland America fleet are not operational yet, and will all start operations in the spring of 2022. These are the ms Noordam, ms Westerdam, ms Oosterdam, ms Zaandam, and the ms Volendam.
Fears over outbreaks from Omicron seem to be taken over for the cruise companies. In the last week, major cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian reported increased health and safety measures onboard their vessels. At the same time, MSC Cruises has had to cancel several cruises in Europe due to new restrictions, and a number of cruise ships have been turned away from ports in recent days.
During one of the busiest times of the year for the cruise industry, the companies’ measures are certainly understandable. Most cruise ships are already operating at near full capacity; a major outbreak onboard one vessel could easily set the cruise industry back to the levels seen in July of this year, where vessels operated with 30-40% of total capacity.