Royal Caribbean is now requiring negative COVID-19 test results from all guests including those vaccinated prior to boarding in the United Sates, but the new rules do not appear to affect other cruises including the Jewel of the Seas sailing from Cyprus.
This week changes in Royal’s health protocols and vaccine policies require that on all sailings from the US departing through August, all guests regardless of vaccination status “must present negative test results before sailing.”
According Royal’s website, all guests two years of age and up must obtain a negative COVID-19 test result within three days of departure on cruises that are five nights or longer.
"This is an additional layer of precaution to ensure the safety of everyone onboard,” a Royal Caribbean spokesperson said.
Last week Royal said six passengers on a cruise had tested positive for Covid, four vaccinated -three of them asymptomatic and one with mild symptoms- while two were unvaccinated minors.
Critics say the cruise industry is placing public health on board and at local destinations at risk by sailing mid-pandemic with the Delta mutation on the rise but the company and industry experts argue that procedures in place have helped avoid large outbreaks.
Critics say the cruise industry is placing guests and local destinations at risk by sailing mid-pandemic but industry experts argue procedures in place have helped avoid large outbreaks
Passengers on various cruise blogs have praised Royal and other companies with similar policies for carrying out and following through with established protocols, which vary not only from company to company but also from ship to ship.
Last month there were also reports that some passengers on the Jewel of the Seas, a fully vaccinated ship sailing the Greek islands, also had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Jewel of the Seas made headlines last month after setting sail from Limassol, marking the beginning of Royal Caribbean’s return to the Mediterranean through a limited summer series of seven-night itineraries to the Greek islands for fully vaccinated crew and guests.
Authorities in the Republic of Cyprus required that all adult passengers be vaccinated while non-vaccinated passengers aged 12-18, who were traveling with their families, had to show a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of arrival on the island.
But the latest change of testing vaccinated guests prior to boarding was to be applied only on cruises departing in the United States, despite reports that the delta variant continued to spread not only in that country but also across the globe.
“We will continue to monitor public health circumstances as they evolve and make necessary adjustments to our protocols," Royal said.
Following rapid increases in cases in popular destinations such as Mykonos, Santorini, Ios, Paros as well as Crete’s towns Rethymnon and Heraklion, Greek officials last week said that local workers and crew on ferries and cruise ships will have to be tested twice a week if they have not been vaccinated.
But vaccinated guests and crew in the Mediterranean won’t have to get tested before departure, at least for now.
Heath experts have said August this year would be a crucial month as data from cases could provide a better picture of the epidemiological situation in the fall as well as help policy makers prepare to make decisions, including a controversial possible booster shot.