Royal Caribbean has decided to remove the mask mandate effective February 15, 2022 for the vaccinated-only areas onboard its ships. Therefore, the strict measures the cruise line implemented in December in reaction to surging Omicron cases will come to an end.
Royal Caribbean is the next cruise line to start the transition to less strict measures on its ships, including allowing smoking again in the casinos.
Royal Caribbean Starts Process Towards Less Strict Measures
Royal Caribbean is rolling back several measures the company implemented in December 2021. From February 15, guests will no longer be required to wear a mask in the vaccinated-only areas on the Royal Caribbean cruise ships. These include a selection of bars and lounges, restaurants, shows in the theaters onboard, and the casino.
Situations where masks are no longer needed include when guests are in open-air areas of the ships, unless these become overly crowded, in the pool or other areas where masks may become wet, in the vaccinated only areas onboard, in staterooms, in private destinations, and when guests are under the age of two.
Masks are still required to be worn in all ships’ areas that are accessible to both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests unless seated and actively eating or drinking. In the last few weeks, Royal Caribbean has said that caseloads onboard its ships have been steadily going down to levels that now allow for less strict measures.
Jason Liberty, the President and CEO for Royal Caribbean, said: “As everyone is aware, the omicron variant has impacted most parts of society, as well as our operations. Since mid-December, we experienced an increase in the number of people testing positive for Covid onboard our ships.”
“The good news is that in the last several weeks, cases onboard our ships have been declining rapidly, and we now have returned to exceptionally low pre-omicron levels.”
Michael Bayley, the President for Royal Caribbean International, already hinted at the changes in last week’s fourth-quarter earnings call:
“I think what we’ll see is as we get into that environment, we’ll start, again, working with the CDC. We’ll start removing many of the protocols that exist today, and it will become easier and simpler for our customers,” Bayley said.
Royal Caribbean Brings Back Smoking To Casino
The roll-back of mask requirements is not the only change that will be implemented on February 15, and it’s one change that will bring mixed feelings. Guests onboard will also be able to smoke inside the casinos onboard the ships once again.
Smoking had been banned inside the ship since guests would need to remove their masks to smoke. The return of smoking was confirmed by Vicky Freed in one of her coffee chats with travel agents this week, and Royal Caribbean states the following on its website:
“For cruises departing on or before February 14, 2022, smoking is not permitted in the casino due to the recently modified policy that now requires face coverings at vaccinated-only venues. For cruises departing on or after February 15, 2022, masks are no longer required to be worn, and smoking is permitted.”
In the last week, Norwegian Cruise Line removed its mask mandate. Carnival Cruise Line implemented a policy where recently recovered guests can board the ships without providing a negative test. The news from Royal Caribbean clearly shows that cruising is slowly but surely returning to a more normal modus operandi.