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Do you have to be vaccinated to go on a cruise?

The CDC is requiring cruise ships to follow stringent public health protocols, including holding simulated test voyages to test the ship's Covid-19 measures before a ship receives approval for passenger voyages or requiring 95% of passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated. ForbesCovid-19 Cruise Concerns Continue: Royal Caribbean Makes Unvaccinated Passengers Buy Travel Insurance

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Royal Caribbean announced sailings for cruises out of Florida in July and August are sold out.

The announcement on Tuesday includes voyages on the Freedom of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas.

If you still want to sail this summer, your options are now from Galveston, Texas; Seattle or Nassau, Bahamas, the cruise line said.

Royal Caribbean said customer demand for cruises remained high, even during the pandemic.

The frenzy for bookings is called "pent-up demand" by Royal Caribbean, saying it is from those wanting to make up for “lost time of little to no vacation in 2020.”

"People are clamoring for opportunities to have experiences outside their home,” said Chairman and CEO Richard Fain during the fourth quarter 2020 earnings call.

Freedom of the Seas will set sail from Florida this weekend.

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Read full article at CNBC

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What happens when someone tests positive for Covid on my cruise?

Cruise Blog 01 July, 2021 - 07:18am

Americans are cruising once again, from homeports in the Caribbean, Europe, and – as of July 2 – the U.S. While many of these sailings will depart with fully vaccinated passengers and intensive health and safety protocols, the first cruises of Celebrity Millennium and Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas each had a pair of travelers test positive for Covid mid-cruise. 

With ships soon to depart with higher numbers of unvaccinated guests, cruisers are beginning to ask what will happen should someone test positive for Covid-19 on their cruise.

Never fear – it will not be like spring 2020, when travelers were isolated for days in small cabins, not knowing when or how they could return home. Cruise lines are now better prepared to handle Covid cases, including treating sick passengers and crew, comprehensive testing, preventing outbreaks, and ensuring everyone gets home in a timely manner.

As Royal Caribbean says, “We have a robust, tiered response plan in place that we've developed with guidance from local authorities and leading public health experts.” We took a look at those health protocols to outline for you what happens when someone tests positive for Covid on your cruise – and why you shouldn’t need to worry.

The first thing passengers should know is that it’s more difficult than ever for sick passengers to board a ship in the first place. Cruisers need to present proof of vaccination and/or negative test results prior to embarkation. Some will need to fill out health questionnaires. 

Plus, cruise port staff will screen travelers at the port for Covid-like symptoms, and will deny boarding to sick people (or  cruisers who’ve had a recent coronavirus exposure).

The cruise line has two ways of knowing if someone on your sailing becomes ill with Covid. The first is if someone reports to the onboard medical staff, complaining of illness. The other is mandatory mid-cruise and/or end-of-cruise testing, either to check in on unvaccinated passengers or as part of return-to-port procedures prior to debarkation.

As part of its upgraded medical facilities, Royal Caribbean offers “rapid, accurate onsite PCR testing with results in under an hour, alongside a multitude of other evaluative tests.” With testing capabilities onboard, crew can be proactive, identifying infected guests while they’re still asymptomatic and containing the virus before a large-scale outbreak can occur.

What about everyone else onboard, you might ask? The cruise lines are prepared to launch into contract tracing as soon as a positive case is confirmed onboard, and will test and quarantine close contacts as needed. 

Once the ship’s staff has confirmed a guest has tested positive for Covid, it will obviously test all of that cruiser’s travel party to determine if the virus has spread. But crew will take contact tracing beyond just the infected passenger’s cabinmates.

The cruise lines have new systems and technology to determine which passengers crossed paths with each other throughout the cruise. They keep track of which guests participated in the same shore excursion groups, and can use CCTV and facial recognition software to identify travelers who frequented the same bar or were in the pool at the same time. All those reservations you might be making for dinner, the gym, or the theater? The cruise lines are keeping that information and can use it for contact tracing.

Once crew identifies who had contact with the Covid-positive passenger, they will arrange for those cruisers to undergo additional testing at the cruise line’s expense.

Passengers who test positive and their close contacts will be isolated immediately to avoid spreading the virus further. In most cases, close contacts will be quarantined in their cabins until the medical staff can administer a Covid test and show a negative result.

Royal Caribbean has also designated a series of cabins near the Medical Center as isolation cabins. Sick passengers will move to these accommodations until they debark the ship. 

Quarantined passengers will have access to complimentary Wi-Fi and room service, as well as telehealth consultations with the onboard nurses and doctors.

Read more: What it's like to get quarantined on a cruise ship

When passengers became ill with Covid-19 on cruise ships in spring 2020, the onboard medical facilities were not prepared to deal with the most severe cases. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have since upgraded their sick bays, so they can treat symptomatic passengers until they can transfer them to a hospital.

For example, Royal Caribbean has added critical care beds to each ship, as well as Controlled Care Centers, where contagious passengers or crew can be treated separately from the general medical facilities. The medical centers have also been upgraded with hospital-level ventilators with CPAP and BiPAP capabilities and other state-of-the-art equipment. 

In addition, each ship will employ additional doctors and nurses to handle the possibility of increased numbers of sick guests.

The days of stranded cruise ships are over. Should someone test positive on your sailing, the cruise lines have agreements with ports of call to debark and repatriate the infected guests safely. The rest of the passengers will sail on as scheduled.

For example, when two teenagers tested positive for Covid-19 on Adventure of the Seas, they and their family disembarked in Freeport, The Bahamas, and traveled from there back to Florida. The ship finished its sailing as originally planned.

Royal Caribbean’s Covid-19 Assistance plan states exactly how the cruise line will aid vaccinated adults and children not eligible for the vaccine in the case that they test positive. Passengers will receive a pro-rated refund of their cruise fare if Covid cuts short their cruise (a full refund if they test positive within 14 days prior to sailing). It will also “cover the costs of COVID-19 related medical treatment onboard, any required land-based quarantine, and travel home for you and your Traveling Party.”

Finally, if you’re a passenger on a cruise where someone tests positive, the ship’s crew won’t keep you in the dark. Royal Caribbean states that “we’ll be sure to provide you with transparent updates the whole way.” 

Cruise.blog editor Matt Hochberg was on Adventures of the Seas when two teens tested positive for Covid-19. “By the time the Captain made the announcement, the family was off the ship, and the contact tracing was complete,” he says. “They made the incident as seamless as possible.”

Erica Silverstein is a cruise and family travel expert, who has been covering the industry for more than 15 years. Her articles have appeared on Cruise Critic, Porthole, TravelAge West, and USA Today. A staunch advocate of cruising as an ideal family vacation, she has, on occasion, banned her own children from cruising with her.

Royal Caribbean to Require Proof of Vaccination From All Ports Except Florida

Barron's 01 July, 2021 - 07:18am

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As Royal Caribbean Group resumes its U.S. operations, the company’s Covid vaccine requirements are hinging on the state from which a vessel departs.

Proof of vaccinations will be required for travelers departing from ports in all states except for Florida this summer, the company said. Cruisers embarking from Florida ports don’t have to show proof of a Covid vaccination, in accordance with a state mandate, though the vast majority on the company’s first U.S. cruise did so on a voluntary basis.

An April executive order by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blocks “any business or government entity from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination” in that state. The cruise operators, however, have seen vaccinations as key to a restart, partly because they believe passengers will feel safer aboard the vessels.

While proof of vaccinations won’t be required for cruises departing from Florida, the company is requiring unvaccinated passengers 12 and older to purchase travel insurance to cover medical, travel and other costs related to Covid “should they test positive while on board.”

In Texas, where Royal Caribbean Group (ticker: RCL) uses the port in Galveston, “Guests age 12 and older must present proof of COVID-19 vaccination, with the final dose of their vaccine administered at least 14 days before sailing,” according to the company’s website.

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The same applies to Seattle, the gateway for Alaska cruises—though before Aug. 1 the minimum age is 16 instead of 12.

On Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Edge, which departed Saturday from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., all of the adult passengers were fully vaccinated, according to CEO Richard Fain. An unspecified number of adolescents and children 16 and under weren’t.

Fain said the cruise, which he had joined, was a crucial step for the company to get back on its feet after Royal Caribbean and peers were barred from sailing from U.S. ports for more than 15 months.

“What we think will happen is that it will demonstrate tangibly that we can operate safely, and that’s our goal,” Fain said.

Before Saturday’s U.S. departure, the company has operated cruises in other parts of the world, including Singapore and Europe.

One concern that has hit Royal’s stock and its peers this week is the growing presence of Covid variants, in particular the Delta variant.

“We are watching everything and we’re really being very careful,” he said.“While I understand nervousness on the part of Wall Street, that doesn’t seem to be news to the people booking cruises.” The company’s Florida sailings for July and August are sold out.

Royal Caribbean’s stock was at $84 and change Wednesday morning, up more than 1% in early trading.

Meanwhile, the company has taken various measures to improve healthcare safety on its ships. That includes improvements to the air filtration systems and having staffers serve customers in the buffets.

Asked about the risks that come with starting up U.S. cruises with Covid still present, Fain said, “Of course, we take a risk in anything we do. If all you care about is not taking risk, then perhaps we shouldn’t be in the business. But we do think that the risk is extremely low.”

Write to Lawrence C. Strauss at lawrence.strauss@barrons.com

As Royal Caribbean Group resumes its U.

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