“You’re kind of at herd immunity on board,” said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line. “On board, it’s like a bubble.”
The alternative, or the decision not to require a high vaccination rate for passengers and crew, requires all guests and crew members to wear masks indoors, except in designated “vaccinated zones,” where only vaccinated guests are allowed.
Most ships leaving Seattle are pursuing the “vaccinated cruise” route. This includes Holland America’s NieuwAmsterdam, Princess Cruises’ Majestic Princess, and Carnival’s Miracle.
While the Serenade of the Seas will not clear the 95% vaccination threshold, the cruise line is still requiring passengers 16 and older to have been vaccinated. In August, it will require vaccines for passengers 12 and older. All crew members are fully vaccinated.
Jay Schneider, chief product innovation officer at Royal Caribbean Group, said the decision to allow unvaccinated children on board — hence preventing the ship from clearing the 95% vaccination threshold — was made largely to maintain the brand’s focus on family travel.
Royal Caribbean is still simulating the “vaccinated cruise” experience in many areas of the ship, especially those where children aren’t otherwise allowed. This includes the casino, specific dining rooms, pubs, lounges and certain events where guests can remain mask-free indoors.
For Princess Cruises, it was “absolutely torturous” to decide not to allow unvaccinated children on board, said Lisa Syme, a vice president at Princess who has been with the company for 38 years. Especially given the cruise line’s efforts in recent years to be a family-focused brand, “that was a particular heartbreaker for us.”
For unvaccinated passengers, some earlier precautions instituted during the pandemic remain.
They must be tested for the coronavirus at the port before boarding the ship. For voyages longer than four days, they must be tested again upon returning before they disembark, per CDC guidelines.
Royal Caribbean will place unvaccinated passengers in specific shore excursions when exploring destinations. Holland America is mandating that unvaccinated passengers — who won’t be children, but rather people with medical exceptions — do the same, and wear a mask at nearly all times indoors on the ship, except when eating.