FLOATING BIOWEAPONS LAB: Royal Caribbean requires all crew members and adult passengers to be vaccinated
Royal Caribbean International will require all adult passengers and crew members to be vaccinated with the coronavirus jab before entering the vessel
when it starts sailing again. Children under the age of 18 with a negative coronavirus (COVID-19) test will also be allowed to board.
The cruise line recently announced that it will start sailing again from Nassau in the Bahamas starting June 12.
With President Joe Biden directing states to make coronavirus vaccines available to all American adults no later than May 1, Royal Caribbean is expected to sail in U.S. waters soon. But there is currently no definite date for that and it's not clear whether vaccines will be required on vessels departing from the U.S.
"That is still under consideration," said Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for the cruise line. "We will continue to follow the science, and we will evolve alongside the data."
Bahamian PM expects "vibrant" tourism season in the Bahamas
Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert A. Minnis said in a statement that he expects a "vibrant" tourism season
in the Bahamas.
"I am especially pleased that Royal Caribbean, with whom we have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship for more than 50 years, selected The Bahamas as a homeport when sailing resumes," Minnis said. "This is truly a new day for tourism. It should inspire many small- to medium-sized businesses, tour operators, taxi drivers, restaurants and retailers to prepare for brighter days ahead."
The Bahamas itineraries feature island hopping with back-to-back days spent at Royal Caribbean's private island Perfect Day at CocoCay, Bahamas, along with time spent in Grand Bahama Island and Cozumel, Mexico.
Cruise passengers must also meet the entry requirements in the Bahamas. These include a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test no more than five days ahead of arrival, a test upon arrival in the Bahamas and filling out entry forms.
Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, said in a statement that the company is looking forward to returning to the Caribbean "gradually and safely."
"The vaccines are clearly a game-changer for all of us, and with the number of vaccinations and their impact growing rapidly, we believe starting with cruises for vaccinated adult guests and crew is the right choice," Bayley said, noting that vaccine requirements and other safety measures are expected to evolve.
It's the first time the cruise line will board cruises for sailings beginning in the Bahamas. "We are grateful for the confidence that they have in us and our commitment to a healthy and happy return to sailing," Bayley said.
Royal Caribbean is also set to offer "fully vaccinated" cruises on its newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, when she makes her maiden voyage from Israel in May. All crew members and passengers over 16 will be required to show proof of vaccination before getting on board.
Meanwhile, Celebrity Cruises will return to sailing on June 5 when its ship, the Celebrity Millennium, set to sail from St. Maarten for a series of seven-night cruises.
Both the Royal Caribbean International and the Celebrity Cruises are owned by the Royal Caribbean Group.
Celebrity Millennium requires all crew members and adult passengers to be vaccinated while passengers under 18 must have a negative test within 72 hours of departure.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, said in a statement that the return to cruising in the Caribbean is a "significant moment" for the cruise line.
"It marks the measured beginning of the end of what has been a uniquely challenging time for everyone," Lutoff-Perlo said.
Airlines to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory for international travelers
Airlines are also expected to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory
for their passengers, at least on international flights.
On Sunday, March 21, Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce told the BBC that "governments are going to insist" on coronavirus vaccines for international travelers.
Qantas pushed back the date it plans to resume its international flights from July to the end of October. That's the point the Australian government hopes to have vaccinated all adults and the date for which the airline is now selling international tickets.
Joyce announced his plans as early as November last year for Qantas to make the coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for all passengers traveling internationally. He noted that proof of vaccination would likely be stored in an electronic "digital passport" which is already under development by airlines and governments around the world. (Related: Here it comes: If you want to board a plane or travel internationally, you’re going to have to have a COVID "vaccine passport."
"What we're looking at is how you can have a vaccination passport, an electronic version of it, that certifies what the vaccine is, is it acceptable to the country you are traveling to," said Joyce at the time. "There's a lot of logistics, a lot of technology that will be needed to put in place to make this happen, but the airlines and the governments are working on this as we speak."
Joyce said he had been talking with his colleagues from the other airlines and noted that most of them indicated they would follow Qantas in requiring the coronavirus vaccination for passengers traveling abroad.
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