Royal Caribbean has decided not to require passengers on U.S. cruises to be vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19.
A battle with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has apparently concluded as the company announced on June 4 that passengers don’t need a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Guests are strongly recommended to set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible. Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement, which also alerted Americans that the cruise line’s U.S. comeback is slated to start on July 2 in Miami.
DeSantis, a Republican, recently signed a law that could fine companies up to $5,000 for each person who is asked to provide proof they’ve received a vaccine against the CCP virus.
Royal Caribbean had previously indicated that at least some passengers would need a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We expect all of our guests who are eligible for a vaccine to have it,” Richard Fain, the company’s CEO, told the BBC last month.
On its website, Royal Caribbean still says passengers 16 or older leaving from Seattle or The Bahamas or sailing to Alaska must be fully vaccinated.
Royal Caribbean didn’t respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
All workers will be vaccinated against the virus, the company said in the new statement.
Celebrity Cruises, also owned by the Royal Caribbean Group, is still requiring vaccines for all passengers 16 or older. As of Aug. 1, U.S. passengers as young as 12 must be fully vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is conducting strict oversight of the cruise industry, recommends that all eligible passengers and crew get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to them.
The CDC is requiring cruise ships to go on trial voyages as it gradually eases rules governing the vessels. In lieu of conducting a simulated voyage, a cruise ship operator can submit to the agency an attestation that 95 percent of crew members are fully vaccinated, as well as “a clear and specific vaccination plan and timeline to limit cruise ship sailings to 95 percent of passengers who have been verified by the cruise ship operator as fully vaccinated prior to sailing.”
The CDC has approved at least five Royal Caribbean ships for test cruises.
A spokeswoman for DeSantis told The Epoch Times in an email that the governor “has been leading the fight for the cruise industry to operate since last year, and he has been working with with the cruise lines so that they will be able to set sail soon in compliance with Florida law.”
“Governor DeSantis took a strong, principled stance, and to the corporate media’s surprise—and to the benefit of all Floridians—it worked,” she said, noting that DeSantis previously sued the CDC over its actions relating to the cruise industry.
DeSantis in April signed a mandate that bans attempts to require so-called vaccine passports, or proof of vaccination. Florida’s Senate Bill 2006, which the governor signed the following month, says that any business operating in the state “may not require patrons or customers to provide any documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery to gain access to, entry upon, or service from the business operations in this state.”
The law goes into effect on July 1.
Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, on June 4 thanked the governor and other officials “for their steadfast support of our industry and for providing access to vaccines to the thousands of crew on our ships off the Eastern Seaboard.” He said that 90 percent of people who have booked cruises so far are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated before they sail.
“Vacationers can finally plan to take their precious time off this summer and truly get away after what has been a challenging time for everyone,” he said in a statement.