Since the restart of cruising in North America, Celebrity Cruises has sailed with at a minimum, 95% of guests fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This was made all the more strict months ago when the US Virgin Islands and then The Bahamas required that for ships to dock, all persons able to be vaccinated must be vaccinated, or the vessels would be denied berthing. Now, itinerary adjustments being sent to travel advisors suggest they're shoring up this policy.
"A Brand Decision"
Itinerary changes are common, especially right now as countries update entry requirements. When travel advisors started getting emails with more itinerary changes today, it'd be easy to overlook a detail they volunteered about the nature of these changes, "Due to brand decision to have every itinerary call on at least one port requiring fully vaccinated guests." If all sailings will now be stopping at ports where all eligible persons must be vaccinated, it means that these requirements will stick, regardless of Celebrity policies.
All Eligible Persons
It takes time to vaccinate people, and children between 5 and 11 only recently became eligible in the United States. In fact, while Celebrity's policy says "all eligible persons" must be vaccinated, this policy actually only applies to those 12 and older...for now. Starting February 1, 2022, this changes so that all guests 5 and older must be fully vaccinated. Of course, if a country the line would like to sail to makes their requirements even more strict, perhaps disallowing unvaccinated persons regardless of age, or some other criteria, then the line would need to ensure they're enforcing those rules. We've reached out to Celebrity and will update this post if they offer any further policy clarification.
Get Your Boosters Ready
As of writing this on January 4th, Celebrity doesn't require that guests have COVID boosters - though all eligible crew have them. Not only might this change if a port enacts this requirement, but we suspect we'll see cruise lines announcing booster requirements very soon. Why? The CDC's Conditional Sail Order is set to expire on January 15th, and it would seem likely that we'll see it renewed - and this would be a logical time to update things. Cruise lines want to keep guests safe, and also appease regulators, so being ready for changes, or even getting ahead of them, by announcing some date by which boosters will be required, isn't a sure thing, but would seem reasonable. In fact, Cunard, P&O, and several other cruise lines have already put these requirements in place. For over a month, Virgin Voyages has been asking guests whether or not they're boosted.
Recent Breakthrough Cases on Ships
In recent weeks, the omicron variant has caused many more breakthrough cases on land and sea. As is not uncommon, however, a disproportionate amount of attention has been put on infections on ships. Interestingly, even the headline cases, such as an Odyssey of the Seas sailing with over 60 infected crew, show that the positivity rates on cruise ships are far lower than on land. In fact, that Odyssey crew's positivity rate was 1/5th of that of Florida's, and 1/20th that of New Jersey's. In short, compared to going out for dinner and entertainment on land, cruising remains the safer option. This is no surprise, as you're assured that 95%+ of people you're around are fully vaccinated, and 100% have been recently tested - something you're just not likely to find at your local bar or restaurant.
We recently did a live video on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube discussing CDC guidance, and considerations if you've got a cruise coming up. You can watch the video here, and comment below with any questions.