ORLANDO, Fla. — Disney and Royal Caribbean cruise lines became the latest this week to make COVID-19 vaccine a requirement to board a ship.
What You Need To Know
- Disney Cruise Line will require vaccinations for those over 12 starting Sept. 3 for cruises with ports in The Bahamas
- Royal Caribbean will begin requiring vaccinations on Sept. 1
- Both cruise lines have private islands in The Bahamas that are included in the vaccine requirements ordered by the Bahamian government
- Carnival announced its policy change Monday; Norwegian already required vaccinations
Disney Cruise Lines changed its policy on its website Tuesday. For cruises starting Sept. 3 that include a stop in The Bahamas, guests ages 12 and older must be fully vaccinated 14 days before leaving on the ship. Guests must also provide a proof of vaccination before leaving.
Guests under 12 must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken between 5 days and 24 hours before the sail date.
The change in policy coincides with the Bahamian government's order requiring all cruise ships to provide crew and passenger manifests showing everyone is fully vaccinated prior to entering port.
Disney says this ruling includes any cruise line private islands in The Bahamas, including Disney's Castaway Cay. All of Disney's Florida-based cruise itineraries for the fall include a stop at Castaway Cay, making the vaccine requirement necessary for all Florida cruises.
Royal Caribbean also updated its policy this week, and now requires full vaccinations for guests 12 and older prior to sailing on any of its cruises, including its Florida ports.
Carnival Cruise Line announced a similar policy change Monday. Norwegian Cruise Line already insisted on vaccination requirements for its cruises, and took Florida to court when Gov. Ron DeSantis banned cruise ships from requiring so-called "vaccine passports." A federal judge blocked the Florida rule, but the state is appealing the decision.
The Bahamas declaration runs through Nov. 1.
Health regulation changes stressing travelers, vacation planners
In her more than 50 years of working as a travel agent, Joline Brown has seen lots of things change, but nothing compares to the constantly shifting nature of the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2020 the owner of Brevard Travel Service left the Merritt Island office space she’d rented for 12 years, and transitioned permanently to a work-from-home setup.
Brown said it was tough at first.
“I love seeing my people,” she said. “That was the hardest thing for me to give up.”
But now, while she’s adjusting to working remotely, Brown feels a bit overwhelmed by fluctuating health and safety protocols for travelers designed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Particularly, the major cruise lines’ shifting policies on vaccination and testing have been difficult to keep up with.
“It’s been challenging,” Brown said. “It makes our job as travel advisers difficult, because what we say today can be different tomorrow. What we say this morning can be different tonight.”
Brown says from among the folks she’s booking cruises for right now, about 95% of them are vaccinated. Especially because cruises are so popular for families with children, she sees vaccination mandates as the most logical step forward for the industry to regain a sense of normalcy.
“I think really the vaccination (requirement) is the only answer,” she said. “Day by day, destinations are now requiring that the ship be fully vaccinated. What good is it to get on a cruise to find out that suddenly, half the ports that you were going to, (now) you’re not going and it was a cruise to nowhere?”
Brown said while business has definitely improved since last year, it still hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels. She thinks some people are burned out by shifting protocols, and have become discouraged about traveling anytime soon.
“Most of my people are booking for next year,” Brown said. “They've already been through the book and cancel, book and cancel routine.”