The mask mandate makes a comeback for some popular summer cruises
Are mask-wearing mandates making a comeback in the cruise world? They are for cruises in at least one popular summer destination: Alaska.
The two biggest players in Alaska cruises, Holland America and Princess Cruises, in recent days have brought back a masks-required rule for some sailings in the region, citing a recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the state.
Both the lines say the new mandates only apply to passengers on one-way Alaska sailings between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Whittier, Alaska. Masks are suggested but not required on round-trip voyages to Alaska out of Seattle.
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Alaska has been recording about 400 new cases of COVID-19 per day in recent days — about twice the number that were being recorded in March. But the daily case counts for COVID-19 in Alaska could be significantly higher as many people who test positive for COVID-19 using home tests no longer are being recorded in official health records.
“Out of an abundance of caution due to the rise in positive COVID-19 cases throughout Alaska, all guests will be required to wear face masks at all times while on board [these trips], except when eating or drinking or in their own staterooms,” Holland America said this week in a letter to customers on one-way Alaska sailings.
Princess, which is owned by the same parent company as Holland America, said something similar to customers on one-way Alaska sailings in a recent letter.
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The new mask-wearing mandates come in the wake of elevated COVID-19 case counts on some cruise ships that sail along the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada in recent months, including ships that sail in and out of Vancouver. The cases have resulted in some lengthy quarantines for cruisers on ships arriving in Vancouver, in particular.
As one of our own staffers experienced after testing positive for COVID-19 on a Princess ship arriving in Vancouver last month, the Canadian government requires a 10-day quarantine for COVID-19-positive cruisers arriving in Vancouver that often must be completed in a hotel in the city after a cruise is over. The cruise lines are picking up some of the costs of such quarantines, which can be considerable.
Mask-wearing requirements were common on cruise ships through much of 2021 and into early 2022 as COVID-19 spread across the globe in several major waves. But most major cruise lines dropped mask mandates in February and March, as COVID-19 cases worldwide dropped significantly.
Mask-wearing requirements were deeply unpopular with many cruisers and contributed to slower-than-normal bookings for cruises over the past year.
Most lines now recommend that passengers wear masks on cruises but don't require it for most itineraries. On sailings where masks aren't required, few passengers now are wearing them.
For both Holland America and Princess, the new mask-wearing mandate for Alaska cruises only applies to passengers when they are indoors on a cruise ship or in motor coaches or rail cars used during cruise line-sponsored tours. Both lines now are recommending but not requiring that masks be worn when on outside decks on ships or when outdoors during port calls.
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