Confusion Over Royal Caribbean Procedure for Back-to-Back Cruises

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Royal Caribbean has been quick to come back from an e-mail that was sent to guests this week. The email stated the cruise line has implemented a new policy that requires all guests on back-to-back cruises to pack up all of their items and leave the vessel in-between their cruises. Only hours after the cruise line sent the e-mail, a new email was sent out that stated this was an error.

The cruise line sent out the new procedure to guests this week, which comes when the cruise line has been actively reviewing and renewing its onboard policies for vaccinations, back-to-back cruising, and testing onboard and ashore since the Bahamas and the U.S. Virgin Islands changed their entry requirements.

Royal Caribbean Sends Out Apology

Royal Caribbean was quick to react to the backlash the company received on various online and social media outlets. In a reaction the company said the following:

With our last back-to-back update, we provided the wrong information and apologize for the confusion. We had advised all back-to-back guests that they were required to pack their bags and bring them to the terminal between sailings. This is incorrect. You do not need to pack your bags and bring them to the terminal. Below is the corrected back-to-back testing information in bold and some additional details for our consecutive cruisers.

The new policy the company sent out will likely be received in a much more positive light as guests are not required to pack their luggage and leave the ship with it in between cruises. Also, testing will be done onboard the ship and not in the terminal. This means guests only need to leave the ship for customs and immigration and checking in for their new cruise:

Guests who sail on back-to-back cruises must show proof of full vaccination against COVID 19 and are required to take a COVID 19 test producing negative results between each sailing. This test will be administered onboard at no expense to the guest.

The regular back-to-back process will occur on turnaround day which means, back-to-back guests will debark (leaving their luggage onboard) and check-in for the next cruise will take place.

If you’re sailing on consecutive cruises on different ships within 3 days, we will arrange for a complimentary pre-cruise COVID-19 test on the last day of your sailing. Just let Guest Services onboard know a couple of days before you disembark and they’ll arrange the complimentary test for you.

Below is our original article which outlines the original email that was sent to back-to-back guests. This information is now no longer relevant.

Pack Up And Wait

Back-to-back cruises have long been a popular option for guests that want to stay a little longer onboard a cruise ship. As many ships have alternating itineraries, staying on board for a second cruise to experience new ports of call pays off.

Docked Royal Caribbean Ships

In a normal situation, guests who remain for a back-to-back voyage can just keep their belongings on the ship and even in the cabin if they are booked in the same cabin for the following voyage. A new policy that has been emailed to Royal Caribbean guests booked on back-to-back cruises changes this:

Between back-to-back sailings, guests are required to undergo additional testing in the terminal. Guests will need to debark the ship with their luggage, will undergo testing, and once they receive their negative test result, will be welcomed back on board during their check-in time.

It means then that the cruise line requires all back-to-back guests to pack up all of their bags, disembark the ship, undergo testing, wait for a test result from the test, and come back on board during an assigned embarkation time. It is quite the difference with Carnival Cruise Line, which only requires guests to leave the ship to go through customs and immigration proceedings.

The procedure is also not in line with the protocol set out by the CDC in the CSO manual. This states that cruise ship operators must collect specimens for SARS-CoV-2 viral testing unless passengers are fully vaccinated or have documentation of recovery in the past 90 days for embarking passengers, disembarking passengers if the voyage is more than four nights, and passengers on back-to-back sailings before the ship sailing on the next voyage. That being said, the new procedure that cruise lines have implemented to test all guests before sailing is also not something the CDC mandates.

Why Has Royal Implemented This Policy?

Cruise lines have come under increased scrutiny in recent times concerning outbreaks of COVID-19 onboard their vessels. It could be that Royal Caribbean is using the opportunity to implement additional cleaning onboard the ships.

Royal Caribbean Guests
Royal Caribbean Guests (Photo Credit: Eric Glenn /

By asking guests to leave the ship, guest cabins and passenger areas around the vessel can be deep cleaned and sanitized, ensuring any lingerings from a previous cruise are removed from the vessel as much as possible. And, by asking guests to be tested ashore and wait for the results ashore, any cases will belong to the next voyage and can be marked as cases that have been found before the start of a voyage.

Also Read: 13 Royal Caribbean Ships Have Resumed as Mariner of the Seas Restarts From Port Canaveral

Whatever the reason, it is apparent that Royal Caribbean is taking no chances to make sure COVID stays off its ships. The line has now implemented a 100% vaccination mandate on all of its ships worldwide.

The only exception is for under 12-year-olds and those with medical conditions preventing vaccination, as long as they are not on a back-to-back cruise. Back-to-back cruises are only available to guests of whom all in the travel party have been fully vaccinated.

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