An ongoing legal battle between the CDC, the state of Florida, and the cruise industry has kept travelers confused and worried for the last few months. Varying rules seem to volley from side to side, sometimes favoring the CDC and COVID protections, and sometimes favoring Florida’s demands for profitability over safety.
Last week, all seemed to come to a sad ending after a Florida court officially declared Florida the winner (go figure) and ruled that the CDC and cruise lines didn’t have the right to demand that passengers be vaccinated. Instead, all the CDC could do is offer “guidance” to the cruise industry on what would be best.
The good news for any potential passenger is that the cruise industry has come out and said that they plan to follow the CDC guidance, despite the fact that it can’t technically be put into law. The CDC guidelines want all passengers on cruise ships to be vaccinated, enhanced onboard medical facilities, an outbreak response plan, and more. So far, the cruise lines that have decided to follow CDC guidance include Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norweigian (which also operates Oceania and Regent Seven Seas), and Princess.
However, due to Florida’s law, cruise ships can’t legally demand proof of vaccination, and instead can only ask for it. However, the cruise lines have a secret weapon to persuade potential passengers to be vaccinated and show proof of their vaccination. According to a statement from Royal Caribbean,
“On cruises departing from Florida ports, all guests are strongly recommended to be fully vaccinated. Based on our guest surveys, we expect 90% of all our guests to be fully vaccinated. Guests eligible but not fully vaccinated or able to show proof of vaccination will be subject to testing and additional health protocols at their own expense. Children not eligible for vaccines will be subject to complimentary testing and health protocols.”
This means that any passenger who isn’t vaccinated could face hundreds or thousands of dollars in medical fees, depending on how often the cruise line will require them to take mandatory tests. It’s an excellent way to ensure that as many passengers as possible are vaccinated, creating a safe space while sailing.
This is extremely necessary, as cruise ships can be easy breeding grounds for illness. Thousands of people all travel side-by-side in a small space, sharing restaurants, gyms, pools, bars, casinos, theaters, and more. In fact, according to the Miami Herald, of the US cruises that have departed since June, 16 have already had passengers and/or crew test positive for COVID-19.