The cruise industry has adapted quickly as the covid pandemic has changed. Royal Caribbean International (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report, and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report have had to change their rules and safety protocols repeatedly since returning to sailing in July 2021.
Some of those changes were mandated by the Centers for Disease Control which controlled how cruise lines operated under its conditional sailing order (CSO). That order was allowed to expire on Jan. 15, and since then the three major cruise operators have been working under voluntary guidelines set by the CDC.
That sets some standards — it led the way on mask rules, for example, and set standards for what constitutes a vaccinated ship — but it also left some areas open for interpretation. That has led to slight variations not just between cruise lines, but sometimes even between individual ships on each line.
Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian, for example, all have made their own decisions about how buffets operate and what areas are self-serve versus served by crew members.
Now, Royal Caribbean has dropped another Covid rule and some passengers are going to be very happy.
Royal Caribbean Makes a Covid Change
Covid protocols have been steadily changing. Masks, for example, have become optional for vaccinated passengers (which includes anyone 12 or over). One protocol that has remained is that all passengers must take a Covid test no more than two days before their sailing.
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Passengers taking back-to-back sailings had to take a second Covid test onboard toward the end of their first sailing. That’s something which Royal Caribbean has quietly changed.
The company shared the change on its website:
For guests departing from a North American or Caribbean homeport on consecutive sailings on the same ship:
Fully vaccinated guests and guests with a valid certificate of recovery do not require additional testing to board their subsequent sailing. Unvaccinated guests will require a new precruise test prior to boarding their subsequent sailing.
That change was first reported on by Matt Hochberg of the Royal Caribbean Blog, which is not affiliated with the cruise line company.
Royal Caribbean Moves Past Covid
CEO Jason Liberty spoke about his company moving past Covid during its first-quarter earnings call. He was very upbeat about how the company has seen the marketplace, which is good news for investors in Royal Caribbean.
“We continue to see strong demand for leisure travel and cruising,” he said. “The robust secular trend of experiences over things that propelled our business in the past years is now recovering toward pre-COVID levels. Consumers are now reengaging with the world, and as a result, spending on travel in 2022 is set to outpace pre-pandemic levels with consumers planning to travel more frequently.”
Obviously, a relative small amount of customers take back-to-back cruises, but for those who do, not having to take a Covid test to do so marks a welcome return to pre-pandemic cruising. That, along with a number of other small steps — which amount to something much bigger when taken together — has helped Royal Caribbean bring its operations almost all the way back.
“During the first quarter, we managed through the challenges brought on by the omicron variant that resulted in the cancellation of 57 sailings in Q1. We moderated our load factors in January and February amid softened demand for future voyages,” Liberty said. “We have now sailed through these operational and short-term demand challenges caused by the variants. Over the past 60 days, demand has materially surpassed both pre-omicron and 2019 levels.”