Royal Caribbean to unvaccinated travelers: No sushi (and a lot of other things) for you

Jun 30, 2021

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Now we know the true cost of not getting vaccinated for COVID-19: You won’t be able to order sushi when cruising on Royal Caribbean‘s Freedom of the Seas.

Nor will you be able to get a pint of Guinness (or any other beer) at the ship’s lively pub. And an Old-Fashioned at the vessel’s iconic Schooner Bar also will be off-limits.

Royal Caribbean this week finally outlined the specific venues on its Florida-based Freedom of the Seas that would be open only to vaccinated passengers when the ship starts up sailings out of the state on Friday — and it’s a long list that includes some of the vessel’s most popular places.

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If you’re an unvaccinated traveler on your way to the ship right now, you may be in for a shock when you arrive — and a very different cruising experience than you’d been expecting.

Royal Caribbean restarted departures in North America on June 12 with cruises to the Caribbean out of Nassau in the Bahamas. But Freedom of the Seas will be the line’s first vessel to resume sailings out of a U.S. port in 15 months.

The vessel will operate short three- and four-night departures out of Miami.

Unlike with the sailings out of Nassau, the sailings out of Miami aren’t starting up with a requirement that all adults over the age of 16 be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The Miami sailings are open to both vaccinated and unvaccinated adults. But Royal Caribbean executives have made no secret of the fact that they’d prefer passengers on the Miami sailings to be vaccinated. And they’re not making it easy for the passengers who plan to arrive without a vaccine card.

Earlier this month, the line said that certain venues on the ship would be off-limits to unvaccinated passengers, but it didn’t give specifics. This week’s listing of forbidden venues fleshes out the plan. The newly posted list includes:

  • The Chef’s Table
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • R Bar
  • Schooner Bar
  • The Pub
  • Viking Crown Nightclub
  • Solarium Bar
  • Solarium Pool
  • Casino Royale (the ship’s casino)
  • Casino Bar
  • Vitality Spa (the ship’s spa)

In other words, if you don’t show a vaccine card when arriving at Freedom of the Seas, you won’t be able to go to the ship’s casino or its spa, and you’ll be locked out of many of its most popular bars plus two food venues, a pool and the nightclub.

In addition, some shows and activities on the ship (including the 1970s-themed party in Studio B and the Crazy Quest game show) will be off-limits to unvaccinated passengers.

Plus, access for unvaccinated passengers to shows in the ship’s Royal Theatre will be limited to a single deck only, and unvaccinated passengers only will be able to see ice shows at the Studio B ice skating rink at select times.

Unvaccinated passengers will also only be able to work out at select times at the ship’s Vitality Fitness Center.

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

The FlowRider surfing simulator on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas is one of the attractions on the ship that will be open to unvaccinated passengers. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

The new rules come in the wake of threats from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that any cruise line that requires passengers to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine will be fined. A new Florida law forbids businesses in the state from requiring 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 venues reserved for vaccinated passengers only.

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

For now, Royal Caribbean has said the new rules only apply to the initial sailings of Freedom of the Seas through the end of July.

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

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Featured photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

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