Royal Caribbean International said Tuesday that it will require all guests over the age of 16 traveling from U.S. ports, except those in Florida, to be fully vaccinated.
Travelers aboard ships leaving from Florida ports are strongly recommended to be fully vaccinated but not required to be. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order preventing businesses from asking customers whether they have been vaccinated for Covid-19 or not, preventing the cruise industry from mandating proof of vaccination.
However, the company said Tuesday that passengers leaving from Florida ports from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31 who are not vaccinated will be required to have travel insurance. The policies must cover all unvaccinated guests over the age of 12 with at least $25,000 per person in medical expense coverage and $50,000 per person for quarantine and medical evacuation related to a positive Covid-19 test result. The guests will also be required to pay for Covid-19 testing.
On Aug. 1, the vaccination requirement takes effect for travelers over age 12.
The company said any travelers who aren’t yet eligible for vaccines will have to show a negative Covid test result and follow certain health protocols.
Six simulation cruises were approved Tuesday to sail later this summer by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those voyages, which test safety protocols before passengers are allowed on board, will leave from ports in Florida, New Jersey, Texas and Washington in July and August.
Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas received a conditional sailing certificate from the CDC, which allows it to start sailing Friday. The ship completed its simulation cruise on June 20 from Port Miami.
The cruise industry is among the last to return to pre-pandemic operations. The CDC allowed cruises to return this year with strict health protocols and requirements in place to prevent outbreaks on board the ships after there were several outbreaks aboard ships last year.
Royal Caribbean said its guest surveys signal that 90% of all its guests will be fully vaccinated.
The company’s new vaccine policy comes days after two unvaccinated guests under the age of 16 tested positive for Covid-19 on the cruise operator’s Adventure of the Seas ship.
Weeks earlier, two guests aboard Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity Millennium cruise tested positive and the company’s Odyssey of the Seas was delayed from sailing after eight members of its crew tested positive.
Cruise line stocks have been rising after suffering a huge hit during the pandemic. Shares of Royal Caribbean Cruises are up more than 11% this year, putting its market cap at just over $21 billion.