Finally, some good news for cruisers worried about strict new boarding rules

Apr 30, 2020

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Things are looking up for older travelers who love to cruise.

New rules that some cruise lines announced in March that would have restricted access to ships for some older travelers appear to be off the table.

The rules, which never went into effect due to the worldwide shutdown of cruising that same month, banned travelers ages 70 and up from cruising unless they had a letter from a qualified treating physician certifying they had no severe, chronic medical condition and were fit to travel.

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As recently as two days ago, the rules still were listed as being in effect at a Royal Caribbean Cruises portal for travel agents. But a spokesperson for the company and representatives from other cruise operators in recent days have told TPG the rules are unlikely to be implemented when cruising resumes.

Announced by such lines as Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, the rules were a response to the growing coronavirus outbreak. Early data has shown that older people and those with underlying medical conditions are more likely to experience complications from COVID-19.

The rules were part of a larger outbreak response plan that the cruise industry as a whole developed in March at the request of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The industry was working through its main trade group, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

Since cruising came to a halt in March, the industry has been working on a new version of the plan in consultation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In an extended “no-sail” order issued in April for cruise ships operating in U.S. waters, the CDC ordered cruise lines to develop a better plan than what was originally presented.

The CDC said the new plan must have further details of how the industry will provide for the acute care needs of critically ill passengers and crew on ships. It also must address laboratory sampling and testing of sick people on ships, onboard mitigation and prevention strategies, disinfection protocols, personal protective equipment, repatriation of foreign nationals and onshore transportation, including through contract medevac helicopters.

Related: 9 ways cruising will be different when it starts up again 

In addition to new rules that would restrict some older travelers from cruising, Royal Caribbean and several other lines since March have discussed new rules that would restrict passengers of any age suffering from certain underlying medical conditions from sailing. The conditions would include things like diabetes, chronic heart disease and cancer. But several lines now say that such restrictions likely are off the table, too.

The lines noted that the final rules still were subject to change.

“We know that our 70-plus guests and those with chronic conditions are especially eager to understand what cruising will look like in the future,” Royal Caribbean Cruises said Wednesday in a statement to TPG. “While subject to change, via the Cruise Lines International Association, we have confirmed that the previous restrictions were lifted in early April after cruise lines suspended service.”

In the statement, Royal Caribbean Cruises said it was “laser-focused” right now on developing new safety enhancements that can be implemented when ships return to service.

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“To develop our future boarding screening process and updated health protocols, we are collaborating with government health authorities, the Cruise Lines International Association and our own team of medical experts,” the statement said.

Royal Caribbean Cruises is the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara.

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

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