People Without Boosters Will Be Barred From This, Starting Feb. 5
New vaccine mandates are being implemented over the next few months.
Vaccine mandates have been in place throughout many different sectors across the country over the last year. These requirements were initially put into place amid the spread of the Delta variant over the summer as a way to increase vaccination rates and slow the variant's spread. Now, months later, original doses are waning in their effectiveness, and there is an even more transmissible variant of the virus spreading. Virus experts have been pushing booster shots to combat Omicron, but only 36 percent of fully vaccinated people have gotten their additional dose so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To move the process along, officials are now putting new policies in place, which could protect individuals and mitigate Omicron's surge.
Several cruise lines have just announced booster mandates for the upcoming months, The Points Guy reported. UnCruise Adventures, a small cruise adventure company that does a number of sailings in Alaska, recently confirmed that full vaccination requirements for passengers and crew will soon include booster shots. The booster mandate for this cruise company will go into effect for all eligible individuals on Feb. 5.
"Eligibility here refers to those who quality for and have access to the boosters in their home country," UnCruise explains on its website.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, a German luxury brand that is partly owned by Royal Caribbean, released a statement on Jan. 11 indicating that it is also introducing a new booster requirement next month. According to the cruise line's announcement, passengers will be required to present proof of a booster shot at embarkation, starting with sailings from Feb. 14.
"This must be visible in the vaccination passport or in the digital proof of vaccination," the cruise line said. "We therefore recommend that you take care of your booster vaccination appointment in good time and have a new digital proof issued. It should be noted that non-compliance with these requirements leads to the termination of the cruise ticket, and embarkation will not be permitted. Proof of recovery without additional proof of vaccination is not sufficient."
A third cruise company, Grand Circle Cruise Line, announced on Jan. 10 that it is putting a new policy in place that will require boosters, as well. But this company's booster mandate won't start until April 1. After this date, you will have had to receive an additional dose at least 14 days prior to your departure.
"To ensure your safety and give you peace of mind, we have worked with our regional offices, listened to government guidance, and reviewed feedback from our travelers to create the following health and safety requirements for our trips," Grand Circle Cruise Line said in a statement.
These are not the first cruise lines to announce such requirements. According to The Points Guy, two U.K.-based cruise brands, P&O Cruises and Cunard Line, added booster shot mandates for certain sailings in Jan. 2022. Most major cruise lines across the world have been stringent in their vaccine requirements over the last year, requiring all or most passengers to be fully vaccinated as they restarted operations in 2021 after being paused for most of 2020 due to the COVID outbreak.
Booster requirements or not, the CDC has recently advised against cruise travel entirely. During a Senate hearing on Jan. 11, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said that cruise ships have seen a 30-fold increase in positive COVID cases in just the past two weeks.
"Since the identification of the Omicron variant, there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases among cruise passengers and crew reported to CDC," the CDC said when it updated cruise travel to the highest risk level. "Avoid cruise travel, regardless of vaccination status … The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads easily between people in close quarters on board ships, and the chance of getting COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high, even if you are fully vaccinated and have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose."
Cruise industry officials have criticized the agency's recent recommendation, however. "The decision by the CDC is particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard—far fewer than on land—and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore," the Cruise Lines International Association, the main trade group for the cruise industry, told The Points Guy.