Royal Caribbean has updated its healthy sail protocols. Changes involve the cruise line eliminating the vaccinated and unvaccinated areas onboard its ships. Previously, certain areas onboard were not accessible for guests who had not been fully vaccinated. All guests can go to all public areas onboard with the new protocols.
The new protocols are in line with the voluntary program from the CDC, which includes testing requirements, vaccination requirements, and mask requirements. Ships will be sailing with a minimum of 95% of guests vaccinated; however, Royal Caribbean has not decided yet on whether or not a booster will be required in the future.
New Health Protocols In Place Through April 14
Unless significant changes come within the next few weeks, the health protocols as released by Royal Caribbean this week will be valid through April 14, 2022. The new updates ensure the cruise line has its protocols aligned with those specified by the CDC in the Voluntary Program for Cruise Ships, with some changes from the cruise line itself.
One important change to the onboard policies is that Royal Caribbean has removed the vaccinated and unvaccinated areas. Previously, guests who were not fully vaccinated were not allowed in areas such as the Schooner Bar, Chef’s Table, the Spa, and the Casino.
On top of that, shows in Studio B were only accessible during select hours, as was the case for the gym. For now, there is no more restriction. Guests can feel free to enjoy the theater, spa, and gym! This means that Royal Caribbean has now also removed the need for a bracelet to indicate the vaccination status.
At the same time, Royal Caribbean has also added new health requirements for upcoming departure ports in and outside the US. For European homeports, the cruise line says guests booked on board will be provided full health and safety guidelines 30 days before departure:
“Royal Caribbean is working closely with local government and health authorities to finalize protocols and requirements designed for the health and safety of our guests sailing from European and Middle Eastern homeports. Booked guests will be provided full details at least 30 days prior to their sailing.”
What are the Protocols for US Sailings?
The health guidelines released this week align mostly with what Royal Caribbean had already implemented:
- Shore excursions: Guests that are traveling with unvaccinated kids will be dispointed to know that they may not explore destinations freely. Families must purchase a tour through Royal Caribbean in this case. The only exceptions to these rules are Perfect Day at CocoCay; Labadee, Haiti; and Port Canaveral, Florida. There is a solution for vaccinated parents though, that is dropping the kids off at the Adventure Ocean Youth program, in that case parents and fully vaccinated siblings can explore destinations freely.
- Reservations for Adventure Ocean Youth Program: Guests traveling with kids who would like the kids to spend the day at the Adventure Ocean Youth Program while the vessel is in port will need to make a reservation. Guests can stop by Adventure Ocean on embarkation day to reserve a time or throughout their cruise.
- Masks: For fully vaccinated guests, masks are wholly optional in all areas of the vessel. Unvaccinated guests must wear masks indoors and in busy settings, while vaccinated and unvaccinated kids at Adventure Ocean will always need to wear their masks. Guests under two years old do not have to wear a mask at any time.
- Booster shot: There is no requirement to have a booster shot before sailing on one of the Royal Caribbean ships, although the cruise says it does highly recommend it.
- Vaccinations: Vaccinations are mandatory for all guests aged 12 and above and recommended for guests 5-11 years old.
- Shared dining: Guests who have been fully vaccinated will be able to dine with whom they want. Travel parties that include unvaccinated children will be assigned their table.
- Testing: Testing requirements remain the same; guests two years and older must present a negative COVID-19 test result. This means a PCR or antigen test taken no more than two days before sailing for vaccinated guests. For unvaccinated children aged 2 to 11, the PCR test must be taken no more than three days before sailing — but not on boarding day. Antigen tests are not accepted for unvaccinated guests.
While it may not seem like much, the current health requirements are an essential step forward to bring cruising back to normal. Many have expressed their disappointment with the health protocols as released by the CDC; for vaccinated guests, the cruise experience is as close to normal as we’ve seen in the last two years.