With cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continuing to sweep through different communities and ports of call, Royal Caribbean International has decided to extend its tightened face mask policy at least through February 14, 2022. This is the second time the policy has been extended since it was first tightened in December.
Mask Policy Extended
In an email sent to booked guests and travel partners, Royal Caribbean International has announced the extension of its tightened mask protocols. This means masks will continue to be required in all indoor public areas for all guests, regardless of vaccination status, unless guests are actively eating or drinking. This includes all vaccinated-only venues, and smoking will continue to be banned in all ship casinos to ensure mask compliance.
This extension will be in effect for all Royal Caribbean cruises with departure dates through and including February 14, 2022.
Despite the two-week extension, however, the email emphasizes that this continues to be a temporary measure, and that protocols will continue to be evaluated and adapted as needed.
“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,” the email reads. “As always, health and safety protocols are subject to change.”
The tightened mask policy was first introduced on December 17, 2021, and at that time was only projected to last for sailings departing up to January 5, 2022. The policy was later extended through the end of January, however, as Omicron cases continued to rise. The extension through February 14 is the third change in the policy’s end date.
While the date has changed each time, the guidelines of the policy have not. Royal Caribbean has been flexible, however, and is willing to work with guests who no longer wish to sail with the tightened policy.
Where Masks Are Optional
Though this extension does keep the stricter mask wearing rules in place on Royal Caribbean vessels a bit longer, it does not mean that masks must be worn everywhere. Guests do not need to wear masks:
- In outdoor areas onboard, unless it is crowded and social distancing cannot be maintained.
- In pools, whirlpools, or anywhere a mask may easily become wet.
- In personal staterooms or staterooms of anyone in the same traveling party.
- While visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay, unless crowds do not permit social distancing.
- If under 2 years old.
KN95 Masks NOT Required
Though guests will need to wear masks onboard Royal Caribbean ships for a bit longer, the cruise line has not changed its guidance for the types of masks permitted. According to Royal Caribbean’s Healthy Sail Center FAQ:
“Your mask should be at least two layers of tight weave fabric with loops that fit over your ears in accordance with health guidelines. The mask should fit your face closely and cover your nose and mouth but allow you to breathe easily.”
The policy does not require KN95 masks, but does state that “neck gaiters, open chin bandanas and scarves, and face masks with valves do not meet health authority guidelines and will not be permitted.”
When Will Mask Policies End?
Royal Caribbean’s mask policy, as well as its proposed end date for loosening that policy, is similar to the mask protocols enacted by other cruise lines. At the moment, Carnival Cruise Line is requiring masks through January 31, with masks strongly recommended and still required in more limited indoor areas through March 30.
UPDATE: Shortly after this writing on January 21, Carnival Cruise Line updated their protocols to remove the anticipated end date of their mask policy. The policy is now in place for the foreseeable future.
Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line have similar policies, but without stated end dates at the moment. Their policies are continually reevaluated.
Norwegian Cruise Line, which implemented a mask policy on December 18 after months of advertising “mask-free” sailings, requires masks for all guests and crew members at least through January 31.
No matter which cruise line passengers are interested in, they should carefully investigate all onboard protocols and stay updated about changing requirements as their sailing date approaches.