Celebrity Cruises drops requirement for passengers to show proof of COVID vaccine for Florida cruises

Celebrity Cruises has adjusted its COVID vaccination requirement for cruises from Florida.

Now, passengers will not will be required to show proof of vaccination on ships that depart from the Sunshine State, starting with the cruise line’s first sailing with paying passengers, departing Saturday from Fort Lauderdale. Instead, it will be at the passenger’s discretion whether they decide to tell the cruise line if they are vaccinated.

Passengers were asked their vaccination status during the booking process.

If a passenger chooses not to share proof of vaccination upon boarding, they will not be denied boarding but will be subject to additional restrictions, such as testing.

Celebrity agreed to implement a COVID vaccine requirement in order to receive approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sail with paying passengers from Florida. The cruise line had said that all passengers ages 16 and up would be required to be fully vaccinated in order to meet the CDC’s requirement of 95% of passengers vaccinated in order to bypass a test sailing. 

That mandate didn’t jive with a Florida state law banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. The Florida law goes into effect on July 1 but is also outlined in an executive order from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“Guests over 16 years old (over 12 for any sailing on or after August 1st) who decline or are unable to show proof of vaccination at boarding will be treated as unvaccinated and subject to additional protocols, restrictions, and costs for COVID-19 testing,” Celebrity said on its website.

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There are consequences for those who opt not show vaccine proof

However, with the change, passengers over 16 who opt not to show proof they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will be subject to additional protocols, at their own cost, including: 

  • Arriving for embarkation with a negative PCR test taken within the 72-hour period ahead of arrival at the terminal
  • Antigen test at the pier.
  • Mid-cruise antigen test.
  • Antigen test at the end of the cruise. 
  • Masks will be required at all times on board except when eating or drinking.
  • Depending on local requirements, unvaccinated passengers may be restricted from disembarking at port calls.
  • Unvaccinated passengers will be restricted to certain seating areas on board in venues such as dining rooms.

And in addition to costing passengers onboard freedoms, not showing vaccine proof has a monetary price, too. Antigen tests are $178 and must be paid for by the passenger.

Meanwhile, vaccinated passengers and passengers under 16 will be free to move about the ship without masks. 

It is unclear whether the change is CDC-approved, and the CDC declined to comment.

The adjustment won’t be in place across the country. According to Celebrity’s website, for cruises departing from ports outside of Florida, all passengers age 16 and older will still be required to be fully vaccinated. Starting Aug. 1, that age drops to 12. 

Children who aren’t eligible to be vaccinated will receive a complimentary COVID test at the terminal before boarding.

Celebrity’s vaccine change ‘a complicated dance’

Jim Walker, a maritime and cruise attorney based in Florida, told USA TODAY that Celebrity’s changing requirements are part of a game.

“Celebrity’s ‘ask but not require’ approach appears to be a complicated dance which the cruise line is performing to appease Gov. DeSantis,” Walker said. “It is a workaround the vaccination passport ban.”

But Walker said the stakes could be high in changing the COVID vaccine requirement.

“With the more contagious and deadly Delta variant, it is a game with deadly  consequences,” he said.

Cruise restrictions may be rendered optional in Florida

It’s possible that the CDC’s restrictions on Florida cruises could be invalidated altogether, according to a Friday court ruling.

The state of Florida filed a complaint against Xavier Becerra, secretary of Health and Human Services, in U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida’s Tampa Division, alleging that the CDC exceeded its authority in issuing its “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,” published in October.

For now, Florida has been granted a preliminary injunction that could render restrictions on cruising to and from the state imposed by the CDC as optional guidance starting next month.

As a result of the ruling, it is possible that the CDC’s “Conditional Sailing Order” will become only a recommendation as opposed to rule in Florida on July 18. However, through July 2, the CDC has the opportunity to propose a narrower injunction until July 2. 

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