The COVID-19 pandemic has all but shut down business for major cruise lines. North American sailings on all major cruise lines have been canceled through April 2021 at least, according to the Points Guy, and cruises will look different when they resume. The CDC now requires passengers to wear face masks, and some cruise lines have said they will require passengers to get a COVID-19 vaccine before boarding cruises.
English cruise line Saga Cruises announced on Feb. 2 that it will require passengers to provide proof of vaccination before boarding when it resumes operations in May 2021. American cruise lines American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines recently announced they would be following course, requiring passengers to get vaccinated before traveling.
“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,” CEO and founder of American Queen Steamboat Company John Waggoner told Cruise Critic.
A number of other cruise lines are also exploring vaccination requirements. The CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings—the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises—said that lawyers are looking into enforcing a similar rule, according to The Points Guy.
“It will certainly be a requirement for the crew,” Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio told the president of Travel Leaders Group via Zoom. “But it’s too early to tell whether we have the legal standing to mandate that you take a vaccine to come onboard—lawyers are looking at it as we speak.”
In mid-February, Crystal cruise line said each passenger would need to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before their ship sets sail. Disney, meanwhile, isn’t even bothering to deal with vaccinated or unvaccinated customers—on Feb. 24, it announced it had canceled all sailings at least through the end of May.
It’s not just cruise lines that might require vaccinations. Del Rio said various companies in the travel industry are looking at utilizing a vaccine passport for passengers, and when Joe Biden took office, he took action to make sure people who left the U.S. needed a negative COVID test to return to the country.
Cruise Critic, the world’s biggest online cruise site, surveyed 3,000 readers to find out their opinions on a vaccine mandate. It found 81% of its audience would continue to travel with a vaccine mandate, and only 5% said they wouldn’t travel if they had to get vaccinated. The remaining 14% were undecided.
It is unlikely that all cruise lines will require vaccinations. Vaccine passports will likely be required on more upscale cruise lines, but it’s less likely they will be required for travel with a mass-market brand, according to Truist analyst Patrick Scholes.
Cruises will have to evaluate if they would gain more customers by requiring a COVID-19 vaccine than they would lose without a requirement. Scholes said potential vaccine requirements will depend on how safe passengers feel traveling. Some travelers oppose a vaccine mandate, but many others like the idea and would feel safer traveling if a mandate was imposed.
“We have to build confidence in our customers and among ourselves that it’s safe to cruise,” Del Rio said.
Read more coronavirus travel news:
- U.S. establishes new quarantine rules for international travel
- What is a vaccine passport?
- When will Broadway reopen? Fauci says it could happen relatively soon
- These airports are currently offering COVID-19 testing
- Is it safe to ski during the pandemic?