Royal Caribbean International has decided to voluntarily pause new bookings for all cruises departing through mid-January 2022. This is a proactive effort to limit capacity onboard while still providing safe, enjoyable cruises to already booked passengers.
Royal Caribbean Bookings Paused
According to a statement provided to Cruise Hive, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson said “Cruises departing through early January 2022 are unavailable to new reservations because our ships will continue sailing with a limited capacity to accommodate physical distancing. These sailings were removed from our website as we’ve done with previous cruises in 2021.”
This indicates that the affected ships will set sail as planned, but no further bookings will be offered for those voyages. Prospective guests first began noticing bookings being removed on Wednesday, December 22, before the entire block of bookings was removed.
This follows Royal Caribbean, as well as several other cruise lines, recently tightening their onboard mask policy, banning smoking in the casinos to promote more mask wearing, adjusting COVID testing protocols, and other changes to increase safety.
Royal Caribbean’s December 23 statement also said “Royal Caribbean International has a set of multilayered health and safety protocols that safeguards the well-being of our guests, our crew members and the communities we visit. Additional layers of our measures include vaccination requirements for our guests and crew, a facemask policy, pre-cruise testing for all guests, and weekly testing for every crew member.”
Cruise Ship Capacities
Since cruise ships restarted operations earlier this year, many lines – including Royal Caribbean – have gradually increased capacity as their health and safety measures have proved effective in limiting onboard exposure or reacting to positive cases.
According to a Facebook post from Michael Bayley, President and CEO of Royal Caribbean, the cruise line began sailing with just 20-30 percent capacity when it restarted over the summer, and has reached 70-80 percent capacity in December.
During a normal year, December’s capacity would generally be at 110%, which factors in third and fourth berths being filled as more families with children cruise during the holidays. Cruise ship overall capacity is always calculated based only on double occupancy.
Troubled Waters Ahead?
While the proactive step of pausing bookings by Royal Caribbean is intended to keep cruises sailing safely, additional changes may be necessary in the near future. Different cruise ports have already begun denying visits by ships with positive cases reported on board. Odyssey of the Seas, for example, has missed both Curacao and Aruba on its current sailing from Fort Lauderdale due to more than 50 cases on board, primarily crew members.
Other ships, including Carnival Freedom at Bonaire and Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas at St. Lucia, have also been denied ports of call this week.
Different countries choose to deny cruise ships entry in order to safeguard their own populations and minimize the risk of bringing COVID-19 cases into their country, particularly with concerns over the rapidly spreading Omicron variant. Cruise lines are in constant communication with ports of call to stay in sync with health and safety protocols and to keep everyone apprised of this very fluid situation.
It is possible that further changes, including itinerary shifts, stateroom changes to promote better spacing, lowering passenger capacity, and even sailing cancelations may occur in the next few weeks as the cruise industry adapts to the Omicron variant’s spread and the impact it is having on travel and tourism.
Booked passengers should stay in close contact with their travel agent or cruise line and keep alert to any changes that may impact their vacation plans, and stay tuned to Cruise Hive for further updates as they become available.