Royal Caribbean International has extended its onboard face mask policy through the end of January. This includes mask-wearing for both vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers in all indoor ship venues, as well as outdoors where social distancing cannot be maintained.
Mask Policy to Continue
In an email sent to booked guests and travel agent partners, Royal Caribbean International is extending its current health and safety protocol requiring masks to be worn indoors onboard its ships on all sailings departing on or before January 31, 2022. This policy applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated venues.
The statement reads: “With the recent uptick of COVID-19 in the world and added Omicron variant concerns, we feel it prudent to temporarily tighten our onboard health protocols to require masks indoors at all times, unless actively eating or drinking.”
Actively eating or drinking is typically defined as being seated at a dining venue with food or drinks available and being utilized. Guests will be expected to wear masks when entering dining rooms and being seated, as well as if their food or drinks have not yet arrived or if they are conversing but not in the process of eating or drinking.
The statement continues: “Lastly, in alignment with the updated mask policy, smoking will also not be permitted in the casino for all cruises departing on or before January 31, 2022.”
Royal Caribbean first tightened its mask policy on December 17, 2021, in response to increased COVID-19 cases worldwide and the spread of the Omicron variant. Prior to that change, masks were not required in fully-vaccinated venues, even indoors.
The more restrictive policy had been set to expire on January 5, 2022, but will now continue at least through the end of the month. It is also possible that as the pandemic situation continues to evolve, the policy could be extended again, or it might be rescinded earlier if circumstances improve.
Where Masks Do Not Need to Be Worn
Despite the extension of the policy, masks are not required to be worn continuously on Royal Caribbean vessels. According to the line’s website, masks are not necessary when:
- In open-air areas of the ship, unless in a crowded setting
- In the pool or any activity where masks may become wet
- In staterooms when with the same traveling party
- While visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay unless in a crowded setting
- By any guest under the age of 2
Guests should note that mask requirements can vary in different ports of call, and all visitors are required to abide by local regulations and restrictions at all times.
What Mask to Wear
While Royal Caribbean does not require a specific type of mask, there are some face coverings that are not permitted. These include neck gaiters, open chin bandanas and scarves, and face masks with valves, none of which will satisfy the cruise line’s requirements.
Ideally, masks should be at least two layers of tight weave fabric, fit closely about the face, and have secure ear loops for a good fit. This is in accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for appropriate face coverings, which also recommend masks that include a nose wire for the most secure fit. At this time, KN95 or N95 masks are not required, but do meet the guidelines for the best mask options.
Other Cruise Lines and Masks
The initial tightening of mask requirements aboard Royal Caribbean vessels occurred the same day that Norwegian Cruise Line, which had been sailing fully-vaccinated, “mask-free” cruises, added a mask requirement to its ships.
Carnival Cruise Line also requires masks as part of its Have Fun. Be Safe. safety protocols, with guidelines almost identical to Royal Caribbean’s policy. Carnival’s policy is also required through January 31, with masks then only strongly encouraged in all indoor venues from February 1 through March 31, 2022.
After February 1, Carnival will still require masks for all guests ages 2 and older in elevators and in designated indoor venues, all retail shops, in the casino, and at any indoor activity with children under 12 years, including prior to being seated at dining venues. At that time, it is possible that some indoor venues where social distancing can be maintained may no longer require masks, though the policy can always be adjusted as needed.
Princess Cruises also requires guests to wear masks indoors at all times and outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained, on all cruises through March 31. According to Princess Cruises’ updated CruiseHealth FAQ, “Exceptions are made while guests are eating or drinking, receiving spa treatments relating to the face, during high-intensity exercise, in pools, whirlpools or sauna, as well as in their stateroom.”
Policies are similar on all other major cruise lines, including Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line.
Passengers booked on any cruise in the coming weeks should stay in touch with the cruise line for updated details on mask requirements and other onboard health and safety protocols, as many guidelines are being updated frequently as the situation changes.