Cruise ship regulations for fully vaccinated passengers have been significantly relaxed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with mask wearing and social distancing regulations the first to go.
Cruise passengers who have been fully vaccinated will now be able to remove their masks in some areas indoors on cruise ships and engage in extended meal and beverage services without masks, according to new regulations from the CDC.
The updates to the Conditional Sailing Order now allow cruise lines to designate select areas of the ship for the exclusive use of fully vaccinated cruise passengers, within these areas mask wearing and social distancing can be relaxed.
For fully vaccinated cruise passengers, a number of the other mandatory requirements are now only ‘recommendations’.
These include social distancing in restaurants and bars, limited seating capacity, and even the much-loved cruise ship buffet, which at one point appeared to be on its wat to extinction, before being modified for the post-COVID era.
Perhaps the most significant detail within the updated Conditional Sailing Order is the fact that cruise lines sailing with 95% of crew and 95% of passengers fully vaccinated can now remove mask mandates and social distancing shipwide.
That alone is a major incentive for cruise lines to only sail with fully vaccinated guests and crew. All cruise lines sailing from the US have implemented a vaccine mandate, Carnival Cruise Line is the only one yet to do so.
The Conditional Sailing Order previously mandated rules that significantly impacted the cruise experience, such as social distancing that would prevent the use of the ship’s restaurants by many passengers, leaving them no choice but to collect pre-packaged meals for consumption in the cabin.
These rules were applied to all passengers, regardless of whether they had been vaccinated. Now, the CDC has relaxed these measures for cruise lines sailing with fully vaccinated passengers.
While the updated CSO will be welcomed by cruise lines and the wider cruise industry in the US, it is likely to spark further debate among American cruise passengers regarding the ethics of a cruise line mandating vaccination for private individuals.
While much has been made of vaccine skepticism in the United States, it is actually one of the most pro-vaccine industrialized countries, with Europe in fact leading the way on anti-vaxx stances.
This is ironic, as Europe was one of the first regions to safely resume cruise operations out of Italy and Germany, with full vaccination mandates brought in once mass vaccination drives began.