Royal Caribbean now expects that crew members will need to be vaccinated before returning to work but how this could be done remains unclear.
The announcement was made in a letter sent to the company’s crew members as reported by crew member cruise blog Crew Center. Exactly how the cruise line is planning to perform this significant endeavor remains to be seen.
In the letter sent to the crew members and featured on the site, the company speaks about the new opportunities the vaccine offers crew members to go back to work, as well as offer protection to their family and the guests onboard:
“We have been working hard, in collaboration with government entities, scientists, and experts, to continue to develop our plan to keep our guests, crew, and communities we visit safely. The new COVID-19 vaccines present a new opportunity to do just that. The vaccines are a way to build protection for you, your loved ones, and our guests.”
“So far, several vaccines have shown to be effective at preventing both mild and severe symptoms of COVID-19, and we intend to make them a key component of our healthy return to service. Therefore, we expect vaccinations will be required for our crew as part of our plan for your return to working on our ships”
There is as yet very little known how the cruise company will be administering the thousands of crew members with the vaccine. While for many it will be welcome news, the fact of the matter is that many crew members live in countries where the vaccine’s roll-out remains slow or non-existent.
As crew members are not marked as front liners, there would likely not be any preferential treatment for the crew in their home countries. That leaves the solution that Royal Caribbean would buy their own vaccine supply.
The process will likely be different depending on where each crew member lives, when they are supposed to be boarding, and most importantly, when ships will be allowed to sail.
Royal Caribbean has said it will continue to update its crew members with the necessary information and has asked for patience to go through the details. What will happen to any crew members who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated is unknown.
Will Guests Be Next?
The question that will be on everyone’s mind is whether or not the cruise lines will require all guests to be vaccinated. Several smaller cruise lines have already announced they will be doing precisely that.
A few weeks ago, SAGA Cruises, a UK based cruise line, made it compulsory for all guests to be vaccinated before boarding the vessel. They are going as far as saying that any guests not vaccinated will be refused to board. SAGA Cruises has, however, not made the vaccination mandatory for its crew members.
Other cruise lines that have made vaccinations mandatory, and perhaps a sign for other cruise lines to follow, are US-based cruise lines American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines. They require all guests to be vaccinated on sailings beyond July 1, 2021.
So far, the major cruise companies have been relatively quiet on the subject. John Heald, the Carnival cruise line brand ambassador, said only a few days ago when posed multiple Covid related questions:
- Do I need to have had the vaccine before I cruise and if I refuse will I get a refund?
- Do I need to wear a mask if I have recovered from COVID-19?
- Do I need to wear a mask if I have had a COVID-19 vaccine?
“The answer to all of these is the same, and that answer is that we intend to provide more details over the coming weeks as we work to resume operations.”
The fact that Cruise lines are taking this long to make any final decisions on the subject is likely because they are evaluating how quickly vaccinations are taking place.
With a potential re-start in May, any mandatory vaccinations for guests would come too early. This could either mean another postponement to have an effective vaccination grade or not making vaccinations mandatory.
Is it Likely That Cruise Lines Will Be Requiring a Vaccination?
If we look at the financial picture, cruise lines could require guests to be vaccinated before a cruise. The simple reason is that the financial impact of cruises without vaccines is far greater than with vaccines.
It’s not totally clear yet on what major cruise lines will do. It’s mainly in the hands of the CDC for those cruising out of the United States. However, with some cruise lines already announcing vaccine requirement it could just be a matter of time until more follow.
This could provide more freedom while on board rather than the strict protocols that are currently being planned. We’ll just have to wait and see.
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