It’s almost been a year since the CDC’s No-Sail Order was first signed into effect, banning cruises from U.S. waters and U.S. ports, and almost four months since the order was lifted—and we’ve yet to see cruises make their comeback.
However, there may be good news on the horizon. Since all of this happened before the first vaccines were approved for use, many people in the cruise community—and, let’s be real, the travel industry in general—are now eyeing vaccines as an overriding safety solution.
On March 1, 2021, Royal Caribbean announced its plans to debut its newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, as the world’s first fully-vaccinated cruise. Odyssey of the Seas is slated to begin its roundtrip departures from Haifa, Israel to the Greek Isles and Cyprus as early as May—and everyone onboard over the age of 16 will be vaccinated, from crew members to passengers alike. (For now, the sailings are only available to Israeli residents.)
So, will you have to be vaccinated in order to take a cruise? Here’s a look at which cruise lines have announced they’ll require vaccines from either crew members or passengers or both.
American Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines
Both a part of Hornblower Group, these two small cruise lines were actually among the first to say that, starting July 1, 2021, as part of their SafeCruise program, all crew and all passengers would need to be vaccinated before joining a sailing. Since passengers on these lines are in an older age bracket, they will most likely be among the first groups to be offered a vaccine.
Passengers will be required to prove that all doses have been administered at least 14 days before sailing, while crew members will be expected to show their vaccination records at the time of hire or before boarding a ship for work. In a statement given to Condé Nast Traveler, John Waggoner, the CEO and founder of American Queen Steamboat, said, “vaccination requirements for both our guests and crew is the most prudent next step to ensure that we are providing the safest cruising experience possible.”
Even though Royal Caribbean made waves with the announcement about its fully-vaccinated sailings, that same day, Royal Caribbean Blog reposted a video from the company's CEO Richard Fain and reported that Royal Caribbean will require its crew to be vaccinated, but that the jury is still out on whether it’ll also be mandatory for passengers. This falls in-line with a letter Royal Caribbean sent out to crew (which was confirmed by the cruise line) in early February that stated the company expects vaccines to be required as part of the plan for the crew to return to work on Royal Caribbean, Silversea, and Celebrity Cruises ships.
In mid-February, Crystal Cruises became the first big cruise line to throw it all out on deck when they announced they would require passengers to be vaccinated to sail with them. Guests will need to show proof they’ve gotten the recommended number of jabs with the final shot administered at least 14 days before the start of the cruise. Masks, social distancing, negative COVID-19 tests, and temperature checks will also be enforced.
Crystal also confirmed that it would recommend—but not require—crew members to be vaccinated before returning to work on the ship, at least not until vaccines are widely available worldwide. Instead, Crystal will be relying heavily on crew testing and quarantine—two tests before boarding, a seven-day quarantine regardless of the result, and another test at the end of quarantine.
Carnival Cruise Line
According to several reports, Carnival backs the efficacy of vaccines but has not announced any plans to require them of their crew or guests. The main reasoning? During a virtual “fireside chat” last month, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said they have already been sailing successfully, albeit “on a very limited basis” in Germany and Italy via their AIDA and Costa brands without requiring vaccines. “I wouldn’t rule it out, but I wouldn’t today say for certain that we’re going to do that,” he reportedly said during the virtual event, “because it may not even be necessary or it may not even be possible.”
That said, the vice president of sales and marketing for Costa Cruises North America reportedly mentioned that the cruise line has a goal to fully vaccinate its crew members on its Costa Smeralda ship before it resumes scheduled sailings in Italy on March 27, 2021.
Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas
Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed last month that it intends to require all of its crew to be vaccinated before resuming sailings but that it was subject to vaccine availability. This mandate would cover ships sailing under the Norwegian Cruise Lines, Regent Seven Seas, and Oceania Cruises brands. At the same, Norwegian has been mum on whether it intends to require passenger vaccinations.
Saga Cruise Lines
Back in January, Saga Cruises, mainly catering to cruisers over 50, was one of the first cruise companies to come out and say they would be requiring that passengers be vaccinated before sailing. According to a cruise line statement to CNN, the bold move was a direct response to a poll where a whopping 95 percent of customers said they would support such a measure. The cruise line will not be requiring its crew to be vaccinated.
A Crew Member's Thoughts on Vaccination
Vaccine requirements are sure to become more of a hot-button issue as expected sail dates loom closer and the vaccine becomes more widely distributed. There has been some backlash over cruise lines requiring either crew or passengers to be vaccinated but not both.
We spoke to a crew member from a major cruise line (who wishes to remain anonymous) about whether they would feel comfortable going back to work on a ship that required crew vaccinations but not passenger vaccinations.
“Absolutely not,” they told TripSavvy. “It’s not even a matter of feeling comfortable for me (a healthy 30-year-old) as much as it is important to me that my company not only talk about implementing the highest precautions but set the standard for it.” They added that requiring full vaccinations would add an extra wall of defense for the crew, especially against any potentially unvaccinated passengers who refuse to wear masks.