Cruise Ships and Vaccines – What to Expect

What can you expect on a cruise?

People love freebies and Carnival Cruise was known for theirs, such as bottled water, chocolate covered strawberries and logo wear under their VIFP (Very Important Fun Person) program .

With the pandemic, do they still offer these? Well, yes and no. It is no longer an automatic assumption that you will find these items in your room. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still available. You just have to use a ‘credit’ type system and claim them if you wish to use them.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines says passengers must have their SeaPass cards with them at all times to access lounges, shows, and dining venues.

Let’s see what else has changed, specifically with regards to the new imposed vaccine rules,  but first some background information on the Carnival Cruise Line and their competitor, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

The Carnival Cruise Line

The Carnival Cruise line is made up of 24 ships with each one offering a different vacation experience, and account for 85 percent of the world’s cruise passengers. With 24 ships you get anything from contemporary to ultra-luxurious.

The company was founded in 1972 and has grown to be one of the most recognizable brands in the cruise industry. In fact, over 5.4 million guests took cruises in 2018. The cruises are for anyone, from the single, to the young couple, to families, and retirees.

The international cruise line has its headquarter in Doral, Florida.

Cruises depart from twenty U.S. homeports and is a leader in providing cruise vacations to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the new ships and see what has changed because of the pandemic.


Carnival Cruise, man on beach, horses

  • New Ships

In April 2019, the Carnival Sunrise underwent a major re-haul as part of a two billion dollar program.

In December 2019, Carnival added the Panorama which holds 4008 passengers. Two other ships are scheduled to be in service in 2021 (Mardi Gras) and 2022 (Celebration).

The anticipated Mardi Gras will feature such innovative items as a roller coaster, a seagoing restaurant, larger staterooms, and the addition of six themed zones with bars and restaurants. It will also be the first ship in North America that will have Liquefied Natural Gas as its power source.

The Carnival Celebration is expected to set sail out of Port Miami in the fall of 2022. Another ship, yet to be named, is expected to be built in 2023.

  • Incidents and Accidents

There have been a series of incidents and accidents over the years from 1999 to 2019, with the last one being a collision between the Carnival Glory and Carnival Legend resulting in stern damage and one minor injury.

In addition, the Carnival Corporation and its Princess subsidiary agreed to pay a criminal penalty for dumping waste into the ocean. The amount settled upon was twenty million dollars. Previous to this, the Princess cruises had paid forty million because of ocean pollution.

In June of this year, it was disclosed that Carnival stock dropped by 6% after it was announced some passengers tested COVID positive from earlier cruises.

What will be Different?

  • The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has stated that 95% of passengers and crew members must be vaccinated in order to avoid test cruises
  • Because of these requirements, Carnival Cruises will operate with vaccinated guests only during the month of July in U.S. waters
  • Travel insurance will be mandatory for unvaccinated passengers sailing from Florida* (children under 12 exempt)

*Travel insurance will be $10,000 per person in medical coverage and an additional $30,000 emergency medical evacuation with no COVID-19 exclusions, starting July 31st.

Don’t book a trip without doing this as you will NOT be allowed on board and you will NOT get a refund.

  • Protocol for Unvaccinated Passengers

    • No independent site-seeing in ports (unless in a bubble sponsored by Carnival)
    • If bubble tour not available, then passengers must remain on board
    • Passengers will be escorted immediately to ship upon return with no unscheduled stops (bars, gift shops, etc.)
    • All those in a bubble must follow protocol which could include testing/screening, masks, physical distancing, etc.
    • Those who do not follow protocol will be removed from the tour
    • Passengers may participate in independent exploration in private ports of call.
    • Passengers must wear masks when in enclosed areas such as piano bar, arcade, spa, salon, casino, Fun Shops and medical center
    • Passengers under 12 must wear masks to participate in indoor activities such as the Build-A-Bear®  or Sky Zone®

Please check here for other important information regarding unvaccinated passengers.

  • Vaccination Policies will be Implemented in these Ports (as of these dates in 2021)

    • Carnival Vista®, Galveston (July 3rd)
    • Carnival Horizon®, Miami (July 4th)
    • Carnival Breeze®, Galveston (July 15th)
    • Carnival Miracle®, Seattle (July 27th – September 14th
    • Mardi Gras™, Port Canaveral (July 31st)
    • Carnival Magic®, Port Canaveral (August 7th)
    • Carnival Sunrise®, Miami (August 14)
    • Carnival Panorama®, Long Beach (August 21st)
    • Carnival Glory®, New Orleans (September 5th)
    • Carnival Pride®, Baltimore (September 12th)
    • Carnival Dreams®, Galveston (September 19th)
    • Carnival Miracle®, Long Beach (September 27th)
    • Carnival Conquests®, Miami (October 8th)
    • Carnival Freedom®, Miami (October 9th)
    • Carnival Elation®, Port Canaveral (October 11th)
    • Carnival Sensation®, Mobile (October 21st)
  • Crew Members

In compliance with the CDC guidelines, all crew members will be vaccinated.

  • Vaccines Accepted

The CDC requires both vaccines (in a 2-dose series of the same type), be administered prior to departing the U.S. Originally, the cruise line stated you could also mix the mMRNA vaccine Pfizer and Moderna but has now changed this policy.

NOTE: If you are Canadian or other International passenger and you have received a combination vaccine such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer, you will be considered unvaccinated by the CDC and must apply for a vaccination exemption.

  • Proof of Vaccines

Carnival Cruise Lines will accept the following as proof of vaccines.

  1. Original vaccine record from country who administered the vaccination such as the CDC, (copies and photos NOT accepted).
  2. Name, date of birth, dates administered, lot numbers clearly visible and all information must match the passenger’s travel documents (dates must show valid dates of completed vaccine no later than 14 days prior to the sail).
  3. A digital COVID-19 Certificate (or QR code) and a record of the vaccination administered by a healthcare provider (original digital email also accepted), personal electronic health record, or record from a government immunization Information System.

Royal Caribbean is also following similar procedures. Let’s take a look at their situation.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

A year and more since the pandemic raised its head, and despite a couple of recent positive COVID cases on the Royal Caribbean Celebrity Millennium, as of July operations are beginning again.

The Royal Caribbean International is a cruise company under Royal Caribbean Cruise Ltd. It was founded in Norway in 1968 and has headquarters out of Miami, Florida. At present, there are 25 ships in active service with another six under construction.

Under the helm of Michael Bayley and Richard D. Fain, it operates the four biggest passenger ships in the world. Market share of the cruise industry in 2018 was 19.2% in passengers and 14.0% in revenue.

In 2019 and 2020 respectively, the cruise line has been presented with more than 100 awards.


Royal Caribbean

  • New Ships

Presently, the current fleet is made up of classes: Vision Class (4 ships), Voyager Class (5 ships), Radiance Class (4 ships), Freedom Class (3 ships), Oasis Class (4 ships), Quantum Class (5 ships).

The Oasis Class Ships are the largest passenger ships ever built making them even larger than the Freedom-class ships with a maximum capacity of 6,296 passengers.

The fifth ship, the Wonder of the Seas, was originally scheduled for 2021 but is now expected for 2022 with a double occupancy of 5,734. The sixth ship is scheduled for delivery in 2023 with a double occupancy of 5,714 passengers.

Another ship, the Odyssey of the Seas, was added to the Quantum Class in March 2021, making it their 5th ship.

  • Incidents and Accidents

The Royal Caribbean Cruise line, like the Carnival Cruise Line, has had its share of problems over the years – starting with the 1998 and 1999 waste dumping into the ocean and falsifying records to the tune of a $9 million dollar fine, to the present day COVID situation.

Eight crew members of the Odyssey of the Seas tested positive for COVID 19 resulting in the delay of the inaugural sailing of the ship in June of this year. It is expected to resume sailing on July 31, 2021.

Even though Royal Caribbean Cruise stocks remains down by over 30%, stock has jumped by almost 25% over the last two months.

What will be Different

The Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas has recently started sailing from Miami to the Bahamas but not all is smooth sailing. There is a distinct division between the passengers – those who are vaccinated, and those who are not. One distinction is the wearing of a wrist band for those who have had the vaccine with full privileges.

Those not vaccinated will be barred from such areas as bars, casinos and spas. To sum it up, the following requirements will be implemented.

    • The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has stated that 95% of passengers and crew members must be vaccinated in order to avoid test cruise
    • *Travel insurance will be mandatory for unvaccinated passengers sailing from Florida (children under 12 exempt)

*Travel insurance will be $25,000 minimum per person in medical coverage and an additional $50,000 emergency medical evacuation with no COVID-19 exclusions starting August 1st. Written policy must be presented if provider is other than Royal Caribbean.

Don’t book a trip without doing this as you will NOT be allowed to board and you will NOT get a refund.

  • Vaccination Policies will be Implemented for these Ports (as of these dates)

    • Seattle Washington (as of August 1st, age12 and over)
    • Galveston Texas (as of August 1st, age 12 and over)
    • Barcelona Spain (presently, age 18 and over)
    • Limassol Cyprus (age 18 and over)
  • Other International Ports

Requirements will vary and travellers should check with Royal Caribbean before booking.

  • Crew Members

In compliance with the CDC guidelines, all crew members will be vaccinated.

  • Vaccines Accepted

Vaccines fully approved or authorized for emergencies, authorization by the FDA, or organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO); note, some countries may require a specific vaccine so it is in the passenger’s best interests to check country’s departure requirement).

Apparently, Royal Caribbean has changed their policy and they are not accepting mixed vaccines.

  • Proof of Vaccines

The passenger must be able to provide documentation on boarding day in one of the following formats

  1. Country from where vaccine as administered
  2. Electronic records where country allows such electronic methods such as an app or health agency
  3. Letter from passenger’s medical provider who administered the vaccination under the following conditions:
    • Must include name of vaccinated person, date of birth, dates of vaccination cycle, name of medical provider, manufacturer of vaccine
    • Information must match the passenger registered
    • Full vaccination cycle must be completed 14 days prior to sail date
    • Vaccine is recognized and approved by the FDA and/or WHO
  4. Also, Royal Caribbean will accept a laminated original vaccine card from your Country’s health organization as acceptable proof as long as it contains the above information


Falsifying this information is considered a crime in the U.S. and could lead to criminal prosecution. The cruise line has the right to refuse board to anyone they suspect of this and the right to initiate a civil action against the passenger.

Cruise Vessels Banned in Canadian Waters

Until at least November 21, 2021, cruise vessels carrying more than 100 passengers are banned from operating in Canadian waters.

Final Thoughts

You will soon be able to take to the seas again but cruises as we know them will not be the same for some time. It is best to be prepared and check with any cruise line for their complete guidelines and protocols regarding COVID 19 vaccines.

If you have your heart set on a cruise and not sure you can finance it, you might be interested in this article.

Additional Resources:

CDC Cruise Policies
Carnival Cruise Protocols
Royal Caribbean Vaccine Policy
Royal Caribbean Unvaccinated Guests Policy




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