FDA Approves Pfizer Vaccine – Will Your Cruise Line Now Require It?

The news this week that the Food and Drug Administration has officially approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was important for all industries, but cruising in particular. Just last week, the Bahamas announced that every cruise ship calling on Bahamian ports must include a passenger manifest with 100% of eligible adults vaccinated against COVID-19. That included all private island resorts which many cruise lines have spent countless dollars and hours developing in the region.

While some cruise companies like Norwegian Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages already had a 100% vaccination policy, others had to scramble to update their rules for cruising in light of the Bahamas decision as their previous policy allowed for a small percentage of unvaccinated cruisers. 

The result? The COVID-19 vaccine is now mandatory for those eligible on cruises leaving from Florida and any other nearby ports with calls on the Bahamas and all three major cruise conglomerates are leading the charge towards fully vaccinated cruises.

Will Other Cruise Lines Follow Suit with Mandatory Vaccinations?

Carnival Cruise line became one of the first lines to make a change. In an update on their website, Carnival wrote “only children under 12 and adults with a medical condition that prohibits their vaccination are exempt from vaccination requirements to sail. . . This means even if you had a cruise booked prior to vaccinations being available or FDA approved you will need to be fully vaccinated prior to cruising unless you fall into one of the listed categories for exemption.” 

Not only will exempt passengers need to provide a medical note, but they will also need to apply for an exemption. According to Carnival, “This means even if you had a cruise booked prior to vaccinations being available or FDA approved you will need to be fully vaccinated prior to cruising unless you fall into one of the listed categories for exemption.”

Royal Caribbean International also jumped to update their cruise vaccine policy as it pertains to embarkations from Florida ports. Starting September 3rd and running through at least November 1st, all passengers need to provide proof of vaccination to sail. 

Following the change, Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley posted a message to his Facebook page outlining the facts and requirements for those on board a Royal Caribbean ship.

“All of our crew are fully vaccinated and each ship sails with a total onboard vaccinated community ranging from 90 to 97 per cent. The overall majority of the unvaccinated guests are the kids not eligible for vaccine ! Do we have Covid positive guests and crew ! Yes ! As all guests are required to be tested before boarding regardless of vaccination status we typically have 2 to 10 guests a week (out of thousands of guests boarding 12 ships) who do not board because they test positive !” Bayley wrote.

“What happens onboard ! Quarantine for Covid positive guest and Testing of immediate travel party, contact tracing and testing of all contacts and quarantine if positive. Repatriation home via private jet in the majority of cases.” his post continued. 

Norwegian Cruise Line has been a trendsetter in the industry when it comes to health and safety surrounding COVID-19, particularly with the Healthy Sail Panel partnership with Royal Caribbean International. With recent developments and restrictions, the cruise industry does NOT want another halt, so for the health and safety of passengers cruise lines will likely begin to require some sort of proof in the coming months.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line was one such line who made an immediate change following the new Bahamas regulations for cruise ships. Their policy did not include mandatory vaccinations to sail, now it does. 

How can Florida Cruises Require Proof of Vaccination?

Recently a judge ruled in favor of Norwegian Cruise Line against the state of Florida in allowing the cruise line to require passengers to provide proof of vaccination. With a ‘speedy appeal hearing’ being unlikely according to NCL President and CEO Harry Sommer, it looks as if this new protocol will be in effect the next few months.

What is the CDC Saying About Cruising? 

Just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added new layers to their warning against cruise travel. Not only did the CDC outline the potential risks for cruisers both 50+ years of age and 80+ years of age, but they also warned against cruise travel for those with kidney disease, lung problems, dementia, diabetes, heart conditions, and those who smoke cigarettes. They’re also sticking with their warning that those who are unvaccinated should avoid cruise ships altogether. 

What’s the best way to ensure you can enjoy your cruise vacation to the fullest? Get vaccinated! With the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine and the soon-to-be-approved Moderna vaccine, there’s no reason not to take full advantage of these safe and effective ways to protect yourself and everyone else against COVID-19. We don’t expect cruise lines to relax their vaccination policies anytime soon, so if you want to cruise, you know what to do!