Celebrity Cruises Makes Vaccines Optional for Florida Sailings - What to Know
Unvaccinated travelers will be required to test for COVID-19 numerous times at their own expense.
Celebrity Cruises updated its vaccination policy for sailings out of Florida, following a federal judge's ruling that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot enforce coronavirus-related rules on ships in its ports.
In accordance with the ruling announced Friday, the judge set a July 18 start date for when the CDC's rules "will persist as only a nonbinding 'consideration,' 'recommendation' or 'guideline,' but gave the agency until July 2 to propose a "narrower injunction," The New York Times reported.
The cruise line, which is part of the Royal Caribbean Group, will recommend that passengers be vaccinated before boarding but will not mandate it for sailings leaving out of the Sunshine State, according to the company. Any guest who doesn't show proof of vaccination for a Florida cruise "will be treated as unvaccinated and subject to additional protocols, restrictions, and costs for COVID-19 testing."
Unvaccinated cruisers 16 and older will be required to test negative for COVID-19 with a PCR test within 72 hours of their cruise, take an antigen test at the pier, take another antigen test on board mid-cruise, and take an antigen test before disembarking. Celebrity will charge guests $178 per person for the antigen tests.
Additionally, unvaccinated passengers will be required to wear masks except when eating and drinking, and will be required to book a Celebrity shore excursion if they choose to leave the ship. Celebrity said unvaccinated passengers will be seated in a designated area in some venues, including in dining rooms, the casino, and the theater.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has banned the concept of vaccine passports in the state.
Celebrity's decision is a departure from its previous policy of requiring all guests 16 and older to be vaccinated at least two weeks before boarding with unvaccinated children required to take a COVID-19 test at the cruise terminal. On Aug. 1, the cruise line will drop that age to guests 12 and older.
The vaccine will still be mandated for all other cruises not departing from Florida.
A representative for Celebrity didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Travel + Leisure.
The CDC has recommended all cruise passengers and crew get vaccinated and waived the need for "simulated voyages" with volunteer passengers for any cruise that sails with 98% of crew and 95% of passengers fully vaccinated. The agency has also relaxed safety protocols for vaccinated passengers, allowing them to potentially ditch their masks and explore ports on their own.
Royal Caribbean has also made vaccines optional for guests on all cruises except Alaska sailings.
Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.