In an ever-changing world, the rules for cruise destinations seem to be changing on a daily basis as well. The newest measures come from San Juan in Puerto Rico, the first port of call for Carnival’s newest mega-ship, Mardi Gras.
Guests who have not been vaccinated will need to stay onboard the ship as they will not be allowed off the vessel for the duration of the call to Puerto Rico. Mardi Gras’ first voyage will set sail from Port Canaveral’s Terminal 3 on July 31 and will be calling in San Juan Puerto Rico on August 3.
Unvaccinated Guests Will Have to Remain On Board
Although Carnival has marked the cruises onboard Mardi Gras to be available to vaccinated guests only, there is still the possibility for those that have not been vaccinated to sail. This is through the vaccine exemption program, which is available for no more than 5% of the guests onboard.
Ordinarily speaking, this would be for guests under the age of 16 who have not yet been vaccinated or guests who have applied for the exemption for health or religious reasons. Based on the fact that Carnival has sailed with approximately 70% of total capacity on board its ships so far, for the Mardi Gras sailing on July 31, around 250 people could be affected by a port agreement between Carnival and San Juan in Puerto Rico.
The port agreement states that guests who have not been fully vaccinated will need to stay on board the vessel, and guests are also not allowed to participate in any tours or excursions in Puerto Rico.
While most guests will not be affected by the move, any families with children will be affected as the unvaccinated kids will not be allowed off the ship. Carnival sent the following letter to guests that have been approved for or have applied for a vaccine exemption:
“Our records show that you’ve either been approved for a vaccine exemption or have submitted a request that is pending confirmation. As our destination requirements continue to evolve. We wanted to let you know that based on our port agreement with San Juan, unvaccinated guests will have to remain on board during our visits there.“
“Consequently, if you will be sailing within the next two weeks, any pre-purchased Carnival shore excursions for San Juan will be automatically canceled, and a refund will be posted to your onboard Sail & Sign account. Otherwise. a refund will be processed to the original form of payment. If you are still awaiting your exemption, please understand that this email is not a confirmation of that request and is for general information only. We apologize for any disappointment and trust you will enjoy the schedule of onboard activities we have planned for the day.“
Those that travel to Puerto Rico through air travel are not required to be fully vaccinated and can enter the Island with a PCR test taken at most 72 hours from arrival. Why the port authority has decided to apply different rules to cruise ship travel is unclear.
Will There Be More Surprises?
While the news about San Juan will be an unpleasant one for those guests that had booked the cruise to see the old city, there will not be any more surprises of the kind on Mardi Gras‘ first voyage out. Other ports of call include Amber Cove on August 4 and Half Moon Cay on August 6, both ports that have already been included on previous itineraries onboard Carnival ships this month.
The issue will likely be coming back again soon as travel destinations review their entry requirements. More and more countries are reviewing the possibility of requiring vaccines for entry; for example, the European Union, a major cruise destination.
Then again, even if guests do have to stay on board Mardi Gras for the day, there is more than enough to do onboard Carnival’s newest and most anticipated vessel.