MIAMI — The cruise industry is getting ready to set sail from U.S. ports this summer after a 15-month layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
A federal judge ruled Friday in favor of Florida in its fight against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its conditional sail order.
It effectively allows cruise ships to depart or arrive from a Florida port and means the CDC also can't enforce vaccine requirements.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has been a fierce opponent against so-called vaccine passports, issuing an executive order in April prohibiting them in Florida.
DeSantis said he feared the passports would "reduce individual freedom" and not allow people to participate in normal everyday life.
Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas ship completed a two-day test cruise Tuesday morning after departing Sunday evening from PortMiami with about 650 employee volunteers onboard.
But if you are planning a trip on a Royal Caribbean ship out of Miami, there are some new guidelines you will want to be aware of before your voyage.
Royal Caribbean says on their website that for Freedom of the Seas sailings departing in July from Miami, the company "strongly" recommends all guests 16 and older be fully vaccinated.
At check-in, cruise passengers will be asked to provide documentation of their vaccination, presenting their CDC vaccination card.
Royal Caribbean passengers who are vaccinated do not face any additional testing requirements.
However, the company says if a passenger cannot provide documentation, then they will be considered unvaccinated and must undergo additional COVID-19 testing at their own expense and follow additional health protocols.
That testing includes the following:
Testing at the terminal prior to embarkation and onboard before disembarking. Unvaccinated guests must register for the test and agree to the third-party test at a cost of $136 per guest.
Pre-Cruise: Unvaccinated guests 16 and older will need to undergo an RT-PCR test taken no more than three days before sailing. Royal Caribbean says they will require documentation of a negative result for this test prior to embarkation. Cruise passengers will have to pay for all related testing costs.
At the terminal: Unvaccinated guests 2 years of age and older are required to take an RT-PCR test.
Before disembarking: While onboard, unvaccinated guests 2 years of age and older will be required to undergo antigen testing before disembarking at the end of the trip. Royal Caribbean said the test will be conducted the day before the cruise concludes.
What will the cruise look like?
Royal Caribbean said there will be venues and events restricted to vaccinated guests on Freedom of the Seas cruises.
Both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests are required to wear masks indoors unless they are seated and actively eating or drinking.
Masks won't be required for vaccinated guests when at bars, lounges, restaurants and entertainment or other events designated for vaccinated guests only.
In the ship's main dining room, the cruise will designate areas for vaccinated and unvaccinated reservations to dine separately.
Entertainment venues will offer spaced seating and more showtimes. Royal Caribbean says some showtimes will be for vaccinated guests only while others will welcome both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests.
The company is having to layout different rules for each of its ports of departure to adhere with federal, state and local guidelines.
Royal Caribbean said it plans to require all adult guests to be vaccinated on five other ships scheduled to sail from ports and states outside Florida this summer.
Below is a list of scheduled Royal Caribbean cruises from Florida ports this summer:
- Freedom of the Seas: July 2 departing from Miami
- Odyssey of the Seas: July 31 departing from Fort Lauderdale
- Allure of the Seas: Aug. 8 departing from Port Canaveral
- Symphony of the Seas: Aug. 14 departing from Miami
- Mariner of the Seas: Aug. 23 departing from Port Canaveral