Following the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and a recent outbreak of coronavirus aboard Norwegian Breakaway, cruise lines are tightening their health and safety protocols.
Carnival Cruise Line has made a number of health and safety protocol updates that will stay in place through January, including tightened mask mandates and “strong encouragement” for guests to get vaccinated.
Carnival said in a letter sent to booked guests that its changes were in response to the Omicron variant.
All guests aged two and above will need to wear masks indoors, except when eating or drinking, or when in their cabins; and when outdoors if in large gatherings and physical distancing cannot be maintained.
In addition, Carnival is banning smoking in the casino through January 31st, 2022 and is encouraging all guests older than 16 to be fully vaccinated and get a booster shot.
“The CDC has strongly recommended that all persons over 16 years obtain a COVID-19 booster vaccination when eligible. We strongly encourage all guests who are eligible to get their booster vaccine at least seven days before boarding,” the company said.
Royal Caribbean International is also now requiring guests to wear masks at all times when indoors through at least January 5th, 2022 according to a letter sent to booked guests.
“With the recent uptick of COVID-19 in the world and added Omicron variant concerns, we feel it prudent to temporarily tighten our onboard health protocols to require masks indoors at all times, unless actively eating or drinking. This new update also applies to vaccinated areas and venues,” the company said.
Norwegian Cruise Line, which has some of the strictest vaccine requirements of the ‘big three’ cruise lines, will also be bringing in a mask mandate for guests.
“In advance of our upcoming cruises. we want to ensure you are aware of our latest health and safety protocols and requirements,” the company said. “Among the latest developments, we are asking guests to wear masks onboard while indoors. except when actively eating or drinking or when in their stateroom: wear masks outdoors when social distancing is not possible; adhere to local regulations when visiting ports of call.”
The reintroduction of mask mandates, which were a common feature among cruise lines when cruises first resumed through the latter half of 2020 and early 2021, are a result of the emergence of the Omicron variant, which is believed to be more contagious than other variants.
However, while it is also better at evading the current COVID-19 vaccines, leading to more ‘breakthrough’ infections, it appears to cause milder cases of the coronavirus, with hospitalizations in South Africa (where it was first reported) having actually fallen.
It should also be noted that among the 17 people who were infected with COVID-19 aboard Norwegian Breakaway recently, none were symptomatic, and only one was believed to be a case of Omicron.