Florida cruise returns in the midst of a pandemic; Here’s what you need to know before booking a trip
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida – The smell of salt water in the air, the sun shining on the deck and a cocktail in hand; the Florida cruise is back!
“Just that feeling when you step on a cruise ship and instantly feel like you’re on vacation,” said Stacie Faulds. “I haven’t had this feeling for so long.”
Stacie Faulds was one of the passengers on the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship leaving Miami on the weekend of July 4.
“There was applause as we walked aboard. It was just awesome,” Faulds said.
The three-day cruise was a trial vacation for Faulds to decide if the cruise is still all it’s meant to be.
Cruise lines departing from ports across the United States have had to make significant changes, particularly in Florida where a state ban on vaccine passports prohibits cruise lines from requiring passengers to show proof of vaccination before to leave.
“For those who have already booked or have gone direct, most cruise lines ask for vaccinations and in the state of Florida they are not allowed to require it, but they are allowed to request it,” said Michelle Fee. , CEO and founder of Cruise Planners. .
All cruise lines leaving Florida will ask passengers who claim to be vaccinated to provide proof. If they do not, they will be considered unvaccinated passengers and the protocols on board will be different for these passengers, starting with requiring you to wear a mask all the time, except while eating.
“There will be some restaurants reserved for vaccinated people, some areas when you enter the theater are for vaccinated and unvaccinated, so there will be a big difference if you get on a ship and you are unvaccinated. because the first priority of every cruise line is the safety of its passengers, ”said Fee.
Fees said to be vaccinated or not, passengers will have to present proof of a negative COVID test before boarding, then undergo a test once on board.
“When you get on board you will get a bracelet and if you do test positive once on board they can follow you and follow everyone you have come in contact with. They will make sure to isolate you and maybe you. get off the ship at the next port, but that’s not going to interrupt the cruise like it did at the start, ”Fee added.
Passenger travel insurance is also required in many cases for vaccinated passengers, as the port of call you are sailing to requires it.
“A lot of people don’t realize it, but when you leave the country, your insurance that you have, which covers you in the United States, usually doesn’t cover you when you leave the country,” Fee said.
Faulds said the cruise was straightforward for her as a vaccinated passenger. Her biggest concern before boarding was that even with all the changes, the cruise would still be what she remembered.
“I’ve been sailing with my family since they were babies to adults, and it’s always a different experience. It’s always a great family memory,” Faulds added.
Fee adds that even with changes on board, cruise lines aim to recreate your most memorable boating experience.
“They want you to come on board to make sure this vacation is even better, if not just like that,” she said.
Back on land, Faulds already imagines the next opportunity to go to sea.
“Now that I’ve done three days, I’m ready for my seven-day outing,” Faulds said. “It’s just that the cruise is the best vacation in my opinion.”
One way that cruise ships are certified to sail again is by having to meet the threshold of at least 95 percent of passengers vaccinated. Cruise lines require all crew members to be vaccinated.
If you are departing from Galveston, Texas or Seattle, cruise lines require all passengers 16 and over to be vaccinated to board. Depending on the date of departure, cruise lines are also starting to request that passengers aged 12 and over be vaccinated.
WHAT IS MOST DIFFERENT ON BOARD?
What’s the first order of business once you get your welcome cocktail aboard a cruise?
Now it looks different since you can check in and go to your muster station using your phone.
It’s all part of new protocols to keep passengers socially distanced and avoid congestion.
“You don’t have to put on a life jacket and go rehearsing with crowds of people anymore,” Faulds said.
But before we get to that, you’ve got a new item to add to your packing list, whether you’re vaccinated or not: a negative COVID test.
“The cruise line will test you once you get to the port of embarkation and then they will test you again before you return to the port on the last day,” Fee said.
A fee has been listed if you are vaccinated and have provided proof, all COVID testing will be covered by the cost of your cruise, but this could be an additional cost for unvaccinated passengers embarking on Florida cruises.
Cruise lines have also beefed up their apps to maximize the contactless experience, including using it to view videos for the rally exercise, scanning QR codes for menus.
In addition, the ability to order drinks and food and have them delivered directly to the pool has been improved.
“I think the bigger question is, what happens when I go to the buffet? Will they have a buffet? And the answer is absolutely yes. The difference is that the crew member can serve you rather than you help yourself, ”he added. mentionned.
But parents take note that some activities like children’s clubs will not be available because children under 12 do not have access to the COVID-19 vaccine at this time.
A fee has also been listed for unvaccinated passengers outside of Florida, in addition to wearing a mask at all times, some onboard activities will also be limited to vaccinated passengers only.
“For example, the casino could be closed to those who are not vaccinated, and it will only open to those who are vaccinated,” Fee said.
But Fee said cruise lines are constantly reassessing current restrictions, and she believes that in the fall capacity will increase and restrictions will be relaxed.
“At some point it’s all going to go away and the unvaccinated, vaccinated, won’t make a difference anymore,” Fee said.
For those eager to get back to sea like Faulds, be sure to speak with a travel advisor for all the information you need to get the most out of your next cruise.
“It was so good to sail in the water again,” Faulds added.