Recent policy changes worldwide and onboard for the Royal Caribbean ships seem to be having a further effect on the on board operations for the cruise line.
Following the implementation of several restrictions, including the mandatory wearing of masks inside the ships, fears of the mass spreading of Omicron, and a recent, although minor, outbreak of COVID cases onboard one of its ships, Royal Caribbean is now banning smoking in its casinos.
As the cruise line also increasingly sails with a more international crowd of cruisers, the line is also stopping the onboard testing possibilities for guests who need a test to return to their home countries.
It’s not all bad news though from Royal, the cruise line has also extended its final payment date for several voyages.
Royal Caribbean is banning smoking in its onboard casinos effective January 5, 2022. The measure is being implemented following fears of Omicron COVID-19 cases spreading onboard and possibly causing outbreaks, a scenario that would be devastating for the industry.
The cruise line recently implemented a mask mandate to combat this, and the smoking ban is a direct result of that mandate. On its website, the cruise line states the following:
“For cruises departing on or before January 5, 2022, smoking is not permitted in the casino due to the recently modified policy that now required face covers at vaccinated-only venues. We will be continually re-evaluating this policy to modify or extend according to the latest public health information.”
The policy for the cruise line has always had one smoking area in the casino and a non-smoking area. Smokers will now have to go to a smoking area on one of the open decks onboard. Although the policy will only be implemented from January 5, 2022, fleetwide, some ships have already begun to implement the policy while other cruise lines, such as Carnival Cruise Line, have announced the same.
Royal Caribbean Stops International Re-entry Testing
The smoking ban in casinos is not the only change made to Royal Caribbean policies. The cruise line has now also announced it would no longer offer the possibility of getting an onboard antigen test for re-entry to a home country.
Given the increasing number of international guests sailing on Royal Caribbean ships and the number of tests that needed to be performed on board, this comes as no surprise.
From January 5, guests will need to have these tests done when debarking the ship. This does provide guests who have booked flights directly after debarking with several problems. However, the cruise line did think of that as it provided guests with several alternatives, although these are not affiliated with the cruise line.
Testing can be done directly when debarking the terminal; here, guests can choose between a rapid PCR test or an antigen COVID-19 test. The testing provider will email the results to guests shortly after completing the test.
Another option is that guests can also have a test done at many airports in the United States. Third, guests staying longer in the area after debarking the ship can use local testing facilities for their testing requirements. The cruise line says it will offer guests more information onboard and before disembarking the vessel.
Royal Caribbean Extends Final Payment Date
In between all the COVID-related news, there is some good news as well, something that will give guests a little boost towards booking a cruise despite all the new measures. The cruise line has extended its final payment date plan further into the new year.
The plan lets guests make the final payment for their cruise 30 days prior to departure, giving guests more freedom to adjust their booking, cancel if necessary, or just save up a little longer. Guests with departures on sailings through May 31, 2022, are now included with the most recent update.
Will These Measures Be Enough?
Over the last few weeks, it has become clear that the emerging Omicron variant is a genuine concern for the cruise lines. This is for good reason, as the variant seems to be spreading far more effortless than previous variants.
As cruise lines reached a point where they were operating in relative normality, albeit with some onboard measures, they will do their utmost to prevent any significant outbreaks that could destroy the work done over the last six months.
Whether or not the new rule implementations in recent weeks will be enough remains to be seen. Should Omicron really spread as fast onboard cruise ships, as it has done in several European countries, we could well be looking at even more restrictions or even cancellations as has already happened to MSC cruises in Europe.