Vaccination mandates remain in place for the cruise – but why?

The decision, said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, was based on “the unique nature of cruise ship travel, including the fact that passengers are in close contact with each other for long periods of time”. But industry critics say the same can be said for planes, trains and in public areas of hotels and resorts.

It is widely believed that the cruise industry has borne the brunt of the responsibility for the spread of COVID-19 among travelers throughout the pandemic, since outbreaks first occurred on two Princess Cruises ships. in February and March 2020, prompting the CDC to issue a sweeping No Sail Ordinance that barred cruise lines from operating in US waters. Canada followed soon after with its own cruise ship ban, which remained in place until November 1, 2021. The CDC ban was eventually replaced in October 2020 with a framework for the Sailing Order. Conditional Service (CSO), which set out a long list of health and safety requirements for cruise passengers, including conducting test cruises. This CSO finally expired on January 15, 2022, less than a month before the CDC announced its COVID-19 program for cruise ships, a voluntary tiered system that ranks ships based on the vaccination statuses of passengers and crew. Cruise lines that withdraw from the program will have their ships listed as “grey,” meaning they have not been reviewed or audited by the CDC.

With so many checks and balances in place for cruising, not to mention CLIA’s voluntary suspension of cruises very early in the pandemic and the sweeping safety protocols that the cruise lines themselves have implemented throughout Along the cruise journey for passengers and crew, travel industry experts are asking: Haven’t cruise lines proven themselves enough?

“We took the position from the start of the shutdown that cruise vacations offer the highest degree of health and safety protocols in the industry. But yet, for some reason, cruise passengers are treated differently than any other form of travel,” says Caroline Hay, Cruise CEO. “It’s not fair when you have this segment of the industry that is held to a higher standard than its terrestrial counterparts, but that’s the reality we live in today.”

Asked if she was at all surprised by Canada’s decision to maintain the vaccination mandate for cruising, Hay says putting cruise lines under a microscope is nothing new.

“I’ve never been to a resort where the CDC walks in unannounced and does a thorough inspection of all the facilities, but that’s always been the reality for cruise lines,” she says.

“The health and safety protocols have indeed proven themselves, and over the months we are seeing minor adjustments to the required or suggested procedures outlined for vessels. With each change, cruise lines adapt and make it work for their guests and crew on board,” adds Hay. “Are there any cases on board? Absolutely, but no more than what other destinations or vacation options see.

Despite the fact that vaccination mandates and requirements such as pre-departure COVID-19 testing remain in place for cruising, cruise bookings are on an upward trajectory. Hay says the CEO of Cruise and its sister company Trevello are seeing positive growth, with last month even hitting 2019 numbers. Group bookings are up, river cruises are also rebounding, and more world cruises and sailings more longs have been booked over the past year than ever before, thanks in large part to market promotions and early booking incentives. All of this, she says, leads to a banner year for cruise sales in 2023.

“We don’t think the vaccination mandate is a huge barrier to booking guests, with 82.8% of the Canadian population already fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” Hay says. “There was certainly some confusion at the start of the return to service of ships last year with the mixed vaccinations and changing protocols for ports of call around the world, but from a Canadian perspective, we don’t see more this as a limiting problem. . Our cruise partners have adapted well and are communicating changes accordingly, allowing cruise vendors to stay up to date with any changes.

Travel agents also agree, with several telling Travelweek that cruise bookings have not yet been affected by ongoing vaccination mandates.

“I don’t think this will negatively impact cruising as most people still remember the issues on cruise ships in March 2020, so it’s reassuring to know that everyone is vaccinated,” says Valerie Murphy , a travel consultant based in Waterloo, ON .

Noting that his cruise bookings are “going very well and steadily increasing for next year,” Murphy adds, “I understand the rationale behind the vaccine requirement on cruise ships and most of the clients I have treaty also agree that they like to know everyone on board is vaccinated”.

Lola Vassiliadis, owner/manager of Cruise Holidays in Oakville, Ont., also says cruise bookings are up and she hasn’t received any negative feedback from guests regarding vaccination mandates.

“I’m not at all surprised that the mandate remains in place for cruises and I really have no problem with that,” she says. “I have been on three cruises in the past seven months and found it comforting to know that everyone on the ship had been vaccinated.”

Whether customers are in favor of vaccination mandates or not, Hay says it’s up to travel advisors to ask questions, listen to their needs and accommodate their preferences.

“Some people would only choose to cruise because of the vaccination mandates, while others would avoid it altogether because of the mandate,” says Hay. “As ambassadors for the travel industry, it’s our job to alleviate customer concerns. The advisor’s role is to disseminate information and present a vacation option that best suits their needs.

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