With cruise ships desperately looking for a fresh start after being grounded for more than a year by the global pandemic, some are making vaccinations mandatory for guests and crew, especially on their first voyages.

Decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis and depend to a certain extent on local regulations in the ships’ home ports and ports of call. Cruise officials also believe that any mistake – such as an outbreak on a ship – could do further damage to an industry devastated financially by a health crisis.

(Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

The response to mandatory vaccination was swift and polarized, which is not surprising in a country where states, provinces and cities have very different approaches to responding to a pandemic. About 30 percent of Americans say they don’t get vaccinated, which is a significant portion of the potential market for cruisers.

READ MORE: How to help restart a cruise

One of the targets of those opposed to vaccination is Royal Caribbean, which has announced five summer cruise programs on ships that require guests to be fully vaccinated. This is not a volatile policy – the line has made this clear and is now successfully running in Singapore without mandatory vaccination.

Vaccinations are clearly a game-changer for all of us, and with the number of vaccinations and their effects growing rapidly, we believe it is the right decision to start offering cruises to vaccinated adult guests and crew members, said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, in announcing the new sailings. We assume that this requirement and other measures will inevitably evolve over time.

Adventure of the Seas will dock in San Juan in early 2020.

That hasn’t stopped opponents of mandatory vaccination from calling for a boycott of Royal Caribbean on social media.

Here’s a selection of these comments from Facebook

  • Royal Caribbean International is not allowed to ask persons for personal health information. It’s between the patient and the doctor.
  • Once the necessary vaccinations for all the swimming are known, I will get my money back and we will go to Orlando to play in the parks instead.
  • I hope they make the right decision. I think claiming masks would also be grounds for a refund. We won’t travel with them if we have to. This is ridiculous.
  • Unfortunately, our travel days are over because of your vaccination policy. Very sad. Royal was our favorite.

This is one side of the story. Proponents of vaccination on cruise ships also join in:

  • I sincerely hope that Royal pays back the anti-vaxxers 100% and prohibits them from booking another cruise….. another cruise for life.
  • Companies do not want to risk employing a group of people who are at higher risk of contracting and spreading VIDCO. What’s so ignorant about that? The vaccine induces antibodies that strengthen immunity. I don’t see the problem here.
  • Thank you so much for asking about the vaccines! We offer our children and grandchildren a late fall cruise, 15 of us in all, and we would never feel comfortable otherwise.
  • Thank you, Royal, for asking for the vaccine and the tests. We will all have to learn to live with a new normal and make choices and changes for the future. I know I’m not signing up if I don’t need the vaccine.

We want to go sailing, and part of the deal is for a new cruise, a Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Business Insider. If you look at the countries that do fully vaccinated cruises, it is a government requirement.

Royal Caribbean’s standard response to criticism of mandatory vaccinations on some ships is: We are still in the process of finalizing our sound navigational protocols and procedures for our other sailing vessels. We will share the information with all our guests when we are ready.

In a recent video presentation, Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain said the company’s health protocols will always be based on current scientific evidence. We will change and adapt as science advances. Our new cruises require vaccinations first, but we don’t know how long this will take. That could change tomorrow.

READ MORE: As cruise lines move on, masks remain a major issue.

One indication of weakness is the fact that 400,000 people have boarded CLIA member ships in the past eight months, the vast majority of them before vaccination began.

According to CLIA, the very low percentage of reported cases of COVID-19 on these ships – fewer than 50 according to public records – is much lower than the percentage recorded on land or in other vehicles.

For the Caribbean Kingdom’s executive branch, it’s proof that the cruise industry’s protocols for testing, contact tracing and aggressive sanitary measures are effective, even without mandatory vaccination. It works. That’s for sure. That’s great, Fane.

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