Major cruise lines that operate from ports in the United States operate under foreign flags. This is largely to avoid US labor laws, as US rules would require minimum wages, certain working conditions and other things that would make operating economics a major challenge for Carnival Cruise Lines. (CCA) – Get the Carnival Corporation reportRoyal Caribbean International (RLC) – Get the Royal Caribbean Group Reportand Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get the report from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd..
This is not a criticism of the operating model of the three major cruise lines. They pay well for the markets from which they recruit most of their workers and create economic opportunities for their crew members. However, not being an American company, despite being headquartered in the United States, made the cruise industry more vulnerable to government control during the worst of the pandemic.
At no time was air travel banned in the United States and trains, buses or hotels stopped operating by federal mandate. Cruise lines, however, were closed from March 2020 to July 2021, despite the industry spending hundreds of millions of dollars to show it could operate safely (or at least safer than many land-based businesses that have been closed).
Even as Americans returned to indoor dining, packed concert halls and sold out sporting events, cruise lines could not operate as they fell under the control of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This created a huge problem for Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian who for over a year could not function in any way.
That changed in July when the CDC offered very strict conditions for a return to sailing and the big three cruise lines resumed operations from US ports. The ramp-up was very slow, but now, the CDC not only dropped its mandatory conditional navigation order to a volunteer (which Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian have all chosen), he slowly rolled back his rules.
CDC makes another major change to cruise rules
While masks have been optional in most of the United States for some time, cruise lines have required them in a variety of indoor locations. until march. The actual rules varied depending on current covid levels – sometimes masks weren’t necessary at all in some venues and in others they were mandatory except for eating or drinking while stationary.
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The rules have been a bit of a moving target, but the CDC has once again made a change that favors the cruise industry. It may seem like a small change, but it’s actually a big deal for Royal Caribbean and Carnival in particular, which have a large family clientele.
CDC rules have required cruise lines to ensure that 95% of passengers are fully immunized. The problem is that the number of vaccinated includes children over 5 years old. All adults who sail must be vaccinated, but it was not mandatory for children. This meant, however, that the ships could only accommodate a limited number of unvaccinated children.
Now the CDC has lowered that threshold to 90%, which should allow cruise lines to operate normally as it would be very rare for more than 10% of passengers to be under 12 years old. Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian consider passengers 12 and over to be “adults” who should be vaccinated.
Cruise is approaching pre-pandemic normal
As the CDC has relaxed its rules, taking a cruise has slowly moved closer to the same experience as before the pandemic. Now, most modified experiences happen before your cruise (assuming you’re not traveling with unvaccinated children).
All passengers must still provide a negative covid test taken no later than two days prior to their cruise departure day. All passengers 12 years and older must also provide proof of vaccination.
Masks are no longer mandatory on board for passengers, although they are still recommended for unvaccinated children. Additionally, recent federal rule changes have made masks optional in the terminal when boarding — a significant shift when it comes to making the cruise experience feel like it did before the pandemic. .
Now the only real question is when vaccine and testing requirements will change. It’s not something the CDC has issued guidelines on (and that’s probably a long way off).