Royal Caribbean Announces Summer Cruises from Texas, Florida amid Vaccine Passport Conflicts
In addition to two previously announced cruises from Seattle to Alaska, Royal Caribbean has announced six Caribbean cruises embarking this summer
After more than a year of cancelled vacations, cruises are starting to come back.
Royal Caribbean International has announced six cruises, which will embark from ports in Texas and Florida this July and August, in addition to two previously announced cruises setting sail from Seattle go Alaska.
"Thanks in large part to the successful rollout of vaccines, the world of adventure is beginning to open up, and we are all excited to start delivering great vacations to our guests, who have increasingly told us they are getting vaccinated," said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International in a statement. "As of today, 90% of all vacationers booking with Royal Caribbean are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise."
The full Royal Caribbean summer lineup includes bookings from 3 to 8 nights heading to the Bahamas, Alaska and itineraries in the eastern and western Caribbean. All other cruises through August are cancelled and guests and travel partners affected will be able to receive a full refund.
Royal Caribbean plans to reintroduce its full fleet around the globe by the end of the year, plans for which will be announced in the coming weeks.
The latest news comes after Royal Caribbean became the first cruise line to receive approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for test cruises. Their Freedom of the Seas ship will embark on a simulated cruise with volunteer passengers from PortMiami on June 20.
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According to the Royal Caribbean's Healthy Sail Panel, all guests aged 16 and older must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with all their doses administered at least 14 days before setting sail. In August, the requirement will apply to those aged 12 and older.
The policy conflicts with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' recent legislation, which bans businesses from requiring proof of vaccination in the state. "I have refused to take the same approach as other lockdown governors," DeSantis said in a statement in May. "In Florida, your personal choice regarding vaccinations will be protected and no business or government entity will be able to deny you services based on your decision."
Governor DeSantis' move has been denounced by many in the travel industry, causing some cruise lines to consider skipping Florida ports altogether.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott took a similar stance on April 6, issuing an executive order to ban vaccine passports. "I have issued an Executive Order that prohibits government-mandated vaccine passports in Texas," he stated at the time.
"We are working to finalize our health and safety measures for cruises departing from U.S. ports, including Florida, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as local authorities in the U.S. and destinations we visit," a Royal Caribbean spokesperson tells PEOPLE in a statement. "Our commitment to sail with fully vaccinated crew members and guests still stands, as it is a meaningful layer to ensure we make every effort to help keep safe our guests, crew and the communities we visit."