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Cruise industry charts summer comeback, but it's far from smooth sailing

Taylor Dolven, Miami Herald on

Published in Business News

“The portering, the people that you meet and working with my coworkers — that’s something I miss ... when they stopped,” he said. “When I drive the machine I’m in the machine by myself all day. But when you do portering, you work with your coworkers all day, you get to talk with the guys, have a lot of camaraderie.”

A cruise ship usually needs about 50 to 60 porters, Allen said, but only around 30 are working because there are fewer passengers allowed on the ships. Still, Allen is grateful more longshoremen are back to work and looking forward to the industry’s full comeback.

“I check the passengers on board and a lot of them when they talk they are just so happy to be back sailing,” he said.

COVID-19 PERSISTS ON SHIPS

Not everyone’s experiences have been seamless.

Companies are navigating a difficult task for their Florida cruises: make sure as many people as possible on board have been vaccinated against COVID-19 without violating a recently passed Florida law that fines companies $5,000 each time they require a passenger show proof of vaccination.

 

Florida is an outlier. Companies are allowed to require passengers show proof of vaccination in other states like Texas and Washington where cruises have already restarted.

“That is a real headache for the [cruise] industry,” said Rockford Weitz, director of the Fletcher School Maritime Studies Program at Tufts University, referring to the Florida law. “The rest of the world is opening up and deferring to the industry to regulate itself in a way it thinks it can have the safest and most fun experience for people in a confined area that a cruise ship is. That means requiring people be vaccinated and frequent testing.”

Each cruise company has its own vaccine policy for Florida and they are changing constantly, causing confusion for both passengers and employees. Carnival Cruise Line requires that all passengers be vaccinated, but offers pre-approved exemptions. Celebrity Cruises requires all passengers 16 years old and older be vaccinated. Though Royal Caribbean International is owned by the same parent company as Celebrity Cruises, its policy differs: It recommends passengers be vaccinated, but doesn’t require it.

All verify vaccination status through a patchwork of pre-cruise phone calls to passengers and voluntary reviews of vaccine cards during check-in, passengers said. Unvaccinated passengers are stuck with fees for tests during embarkation and debarkation, and sometimes mid-cruise, and restrictions on ship and shore activities. Soon, unvaccinated passengers on Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International ships will have to purchase travel insurance for COVID-19.

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