Royal Caribbean Makes Unvaccinated Passengers Buy Travel Insurance


Royal Caribbean International will require unvaccinated passengers to purchase travel insurance—and therefore pick up the cost—for Covid-19-related expenses after a federal court upheld Florida’s “vaccine passport” ban prohibiting cruise ships from requiring vaccinations.

Key Facts

Royal Caribbean will mandate vaccinations for all passengers eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine on all cruises out of U.S. ports and the Bahamas, except for Florida-based cruises where vaccines are merely “strongly recommended.”

Unvaccinated travelers on cruises starting August 1 through the end of the year—excluding those who booked their cruises before the insurance requirement was first announced late Monday—will be required to purchase insurance that covers at least $25,000 in medical expenses and $50,000 per person for costs associated with quarantining and medical evaluation related to a Covid-19 infection.

The insurance expenses would presumably go toward removing the costs that the cruise lineswould otherwise pick up themselves in the event of a Covid-19 case or outbreak, as Royal Caribbean notes that for vaccinated passengers and children, the company will cover medical expenses onboard the ship and any required quarantine measures measures on land through October 31.

Unvaccinated guests on cruises out of Florida ports will be subject to other additional requirements including multiple Covid-19 tests, which the company notes on its website will cost adult guests $136 or $178 depending on the length of their cruise (Royal Caribbean will pay for tests for children up to age 11).

A federal court issued an injunction earlier in June blocking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine requirements for cruises in Florida, after the state government sued the Biden Administration over the agency’s guidelines.

Royal Caribbean added the extra requirements for unvaccinated travelers after two passengers onboard their Celebrity Millennium ship tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in June—though passengers were required on that ship to show proof of vaccination—and after eight crew members from their Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship who weren’t fully vaccinated tested positive in June as well.


In addition to Royal Caribbean’s cases, Disney Cruise Line postponed their first test sailing Monday due to a “small number of inconsistent Covid-19 test results,” which the CDC treats as positive cases, and two passengers tested positive in June onboard a MSC Seaside cruise ship in the Mediterranean that did not have a vaccination requirement.

Big Number

90%. That’s the percentage of travelers on its Florida cruise ships that Royal Caribbean believes will be fully vaccinated despite inoculations not being required, the company said Tuesday. Polling has shown most Americans heavily prefer cruise lines to require vaccinations, with a recent Harris poll finding 63% would be more likely to go on a cruise if all passengers and crew members were vaccinated and 59% would specifically seek out a cruise line with a vaccine requirement.

What To Watch For

Cruises out of U.S. ports are now resuming after being barred since the pandemic began, with the Celebrity Edge becoming the first cruise ship to disembark from a U.S. port when it sailed from Port Everglades in Florida on Saturday. Royal Caribbean’s first cruise ship to leave from a U.S. port will be the Freedom of the Seas, company CEO Michael Bayley announced on Facebook Tuesday, which will depart on Friday from Miami after receiving a conditional sailing certificate from the CDC clearing it for passenger cruises.

Key Background

Cruise ships were halted at the start of the pandemic after becoming a major vector for Covid-19 transmission, with CDC data published by the New York Times reporting more than 100 cruise ships in the U.S. alone had Covid-19 outbreaks and more than 3,000 people contracted the virus as a result. While the CDC has blocked major cruise lines from operating until now, cruises resumed last year in other parts of the world and on smaller ships not subject to the agency’s no sail order—and resulted in multiple outbreaks, including on ships in Alaska and Norway. The CDC is requiring cruise ships to follow stringent public health protocols, including holding simulated test voyages to test the ship’s Covid-19 measures before a ship receives approval for passenger voyages or requiring 95% of passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated.

Further Reading

Plenty of slot machines, few kids: Onboard the first ship to depart the US in more than 15 months (CNN)

Federal Judge Blocks CDC’s Cruise Ship Restrictions After Florida Sues (Forbes)

Passengers Testing Positive, Vaccine Passport Showdown: Here Are The Challenges Cruises Are Facing As They Set Sail Again (Forbes)

Royal Caribbean Postpones Cruise After Crew Members Test Positive For Covid-19 (Forbes)

Most Americans Would Specifically Look For A Cruise Line With A Vaccination Mandate, Per Survey (Forbes)

Royal Caribbean’s Plan To Carry Unvaccinated Passengers Draws Mixed Reactions From Its Fan Base (Forbes)

Forbes AdvisorBest Cruise Insurance Plans June 2021

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