Unvaccinated passengers on initial Royal Caribbean cruises from Florida will face restrictions

Jun 17, 2021

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Passengers on Royal Caribbean‘s first sailings from Florida who don’t show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine will face more restrictions than passengers who do.

In a statement released late Thursday, the line said passengers who don’t provide evidence of a vaccine for COVID-19 when boarding the 3,934-passenger Freedom of the Seas in Miami will not have access to all the ship’s activities. They’ll also face extra requirements when it comes to COVID-19 testing and mask-wearing.

Freedom of the Seas is scheduled to begin sailing from Miami on July 2, becoming the first Royal Caribbean ship to resume voyages out of a U.S. port.

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“Since the majority of our guests will be vaccinated, there will be venues and events restricted to vaccinated guests only,” the line said in the statement. “We’ll do our best to create opportunities for all guests to enjoy their time with us.”

Among the restrictions that unvaccinated passengers will face:

  • They will not be able to sign up for My Time Dining in the ship’s main dining room — the type of dining where passengers can arrive whenever they want and sit with whomever they want. They’ll be restricted to a fixed dining time and be assigned to a designated area specifically for unvaccinated passengers.
  • They will not be able to participate in some activities.
  • They will not be able to access all venues.
  • They will not be able to attend certain performances of theater shows that will be restricted to vaccinated passengers only.

Unvaccinated passengers also will have to wear masks at all times when in interior areas of the ship. Vaccinated passengers will have to wear masks at some times in interior areas but will be able to take them off when in venues (bars, lounges, restaurants and entertainment areas) or at events designated for vaccinated guests only.

One exception to the above: Masks will not be required for any passengers who are actively eating or drinking.

Royal Caribbean said the newly announced restrictions for unvaccinated passengers would apply both to passengers who are unvaccinated and those who are vaccinated but refuse to show proof of the vaccine.

The new rules come in the wake of threats from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that any cruise line that asks passengers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine will be fined. A new Florida law forbids businesses in the state from asking customers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccinated passengers on Freedom of the Seas will be issued wristbands that show they are vaccinated and allow them access to vaccinated-only venues and events.

Passengers who are unvaccinated will have a hole punched in their key cards, known as SeaPass cards.

All passengers will have to show their SeaPass cards to access lounges, shows and dining venues on the ship.

Royal Caribbean on Thursday also said unvaccinated passengers will have to undergo additional COVID-19 testing at their own expense to sail on Freedom of the Seas.

The additional testing will include a test at the cruise terminal in Miami prior to boarding the ship and another test on board prior to disembarkation. The cost for the two tests will be $136 per passenger, with a caveat: Children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated will not have to pay the charge. Children under the age of 2 will not have to take the tests.

In addition, unvaccinated passengers 16 years of age and older will need to undergo an RT-PCR test for COVID-19 before leaving for their cruise, within three days of sailing. Unvaccinated passengers will be responsible for the cost of that test, too.

Passengers who don’t want to pay for the additional testing or follow the newly announced protocols for the ship can cancel their trips for a full refund, Royal Caribbean said.

Royal Caribbean said the new rules would be in effect at least through July.

“We believe that in the coming months, restrictions and requirements will be more accommodating as public health circumstances evolve,” the line said.

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Featured photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

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