Being on a cruise has largely returned to the same experience it was before the pandemic. Mask requirements have been dropped, capacities have returned to normal, and social distancing requirements have been dropped.
In fact, aside from crew members still having to wear masks and some stray passengers opting to do so in certain indoor situations, there's really no sign of covid rules once you board your cruise.
Before you board, however, the pandemic still has an effect on cruising. Every passenger 12 and older must be vaccinated (and must prove so before getting on board) and all passengers must produce a negative covid test taken no more than two days before getting on the ship.
And, while covid remains a problem, the cruise industry sees some light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to pre-cruise protocols. Executives from the major cruise lines -- Royal Caribbean International (RCL) , Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) , and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) -- have said very little about plans to drop pre-cruise testing and vaccination requirements,
Now, however, Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley has spoken out on both issues and has given cruise fans some real answers.
When Will Covid Tests and Vaccinations Get Dropped?
The major cruise lines have largely stayed quiet about covid protocols because they remain somewhat beholden to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The current CDC rules are voluntary, but voluntary is sort of a relative term when it comes to the power the federal agency has over the cruise industry.
It makes sense that the industry has been cautious in commenting on when covid protocols may change, but with the end at least seeming feasible Bayley answered questions about both the end of pre-cruise testing and potentially dropping vaccination requirements during the 2022 Royal Caribbean President's Cruise on Ovation of the Seas, the Royal Caribbean Blog reported.
"I think pre-cruise testing is going to be around for another couple of months," Bayley said. "We obviously want it to go back to normal, but we're incredibly cognizant of our responsibilities to keep our crew, the communities and our guests safe."
Bayley was less hopeful about the end of vaccinations, according to the blog, which has no connection to Royal Caribbean.
"The no vaccine question is is a huge question that none of us know the answer to," he said. "I'm skeptical that's going to change in the in the real short term. Many and most of the destinations that we visit require a high degree of vaccination, and they expect our crew to be vaccinated."
Cruise Lines Covid Protocols Are Working
Covid has not gone anywhere, but the cruise industry has been very successful at controlling the impact of the virus. Bayley noted that the CDC shares some information with him about the "millions" of people who have sailed from U.S. ports over the past 12 months.
"And the number of people who died from COVID who'd sailed on ships over the past year was two," the Royal Caribbean Blog reported. "Two is terrible. But against the context of everything we've seen, that's it's truly been a remarkable success."
Vaccine requirements remain a touchy issue as some people have chosen not to be vaccinated and that means they cannot cruise. That seems unlikely to change anytime soon given the destinations Royal Caribbean visits and the CDC information which shows that the current protocols are working.