Royal Caribbean has updated its policy on mixed vaccines after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance on the topic.
The update comes after six American passengers sailing on Adventure of the Seas, which departed from Nassau last Saturday (July 31), tested positive for COVID-19.
The positive cases involved four vaccinated adults and two unvaccinated children, USA Today reports.
The positive tests were found during a routine, end-of-cruise test, which the company offers as a courtesy since most passengers need to show proof of a negative test in order to return home, the report says.
"These guests were quarantined and then retested with a PCR test to confirm their diagnosis," Sierra-Caro said. PCR and antigen tests were offered to passengers, depending on their destination. The tests that came back positive were rapid tests, and those passengers were retested Thursday or Friday with a PCR test, which is more reliable,” Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, told the news outlet.
In light of the CDC's update, Royal Caribbean says it will only accept vaccines that are fully approved or authorized by a national regulatory authority (such as the U.S. FDA) or global health organization (such as the World Health Organization).
The accepted vaccines must have all completed the appropriate clinical trials and “have demonstrated their effectiveness in protecting against COVID-19,” a statement reads.
“We will continue to evaluate and update our health and safety measures in compliance with federal, state and local government and health authorities.”
For cruises departing from U.S. Ports
The use of mixed vaccines has become a hot topic, particularly in Canada, where citizens were encouraged by the government to take the first vaccine that was offered – even if it meant mixing brands.
Royal Caribbean points out that the CDC advises that a vaccine series should be “completed with products from the same manufacturer” as the safety of mixing doses “has not been fully evaluated.”
“Currently, the CDC does not recognize any mixed combination of COVID-19 vaccines as fully vaccinated,” Royal Caribbean said. “To be recognized as fully vaccinated, guests must complete a vaccine series with products from the same manufacturer and have a sailing date 14 days after their vaccine series is complete.”
The CDC’s policy can be viewed here.
Guests departing from Florida ports
For cruises departing from Florida, where the rules are treated a little differently, Royal Caribbean still strongly recommends being fully vaccinated to sail.
“Guests cruising from Florida with a vaccination regimen that does not satisfy CDC guidelines for U.S. departures are permitted to sail, but they will be considered unvaccinated and must meet all requirements for unvaccinated guests,” the company said. “That includes testing at their own expense, insurance requirements and all onboard protocols.”
Cruises departing from ports outside of U.S.
The rules, however, change with the region.
For cruises departing from ports outside of the U.S., guests who are vaccinated with a mixed regimen consisting of two shots of the following manufacturer combinations: Pfizer and Moderna, or AstraZeneca with either Pfizer or Moderna, will be able to sail, Royal Caribbean says.
Doses must be separated by at least 28 days and not more than 42 days for mixes of Pfizer and Moderna, and combinations of AstraZeneca with Pfizer or Moderna must be separated by at least four weeks and not more than 12 weeks.
“Mixed vaccines may not be accepted at all ports of call,” the company notes. “Guests who are vaccinated with a mixed series may not be allowed to go ashore at these ports or may need to undergo additional testing if they wish to go ashore.”
St. Kitts & Nevis clarifies
St. Kitts & Nevis, meanwhile, is clarifying that there are no capacity limitations on the number of passengers that can enter the Federation on a cruise ship amid its phased re-opening of tourism.
In an Aug. 2, 2021, post on Royal Caribbean blog, it was reported that “St. Kitts recently announced a new policy which only allows 700 guests to visit their island per ship” and that the Allure of the Seas sailing on Aug. 8 would visit Philipsburg, St. Maarten instead.
This “was not accurate,” the country’s tourism authority said on Tuesday (Aug 3).
“The cruise protocols for the resumption of cruise tourism do not place limits on the number of passengers allowed to enter the Federation on a cruise ship. The decision by Royal Caribbean for the Allure of the Seas not to make a port call in St. Kitts on their August 8th, 2021 sailing was not because of the 700-cruise passenger maximum capacity per ship,” said Minister of Tourism, Transport and Port Lindsay F.P. Grant, in a statement.
St. Kitts & Nevis has been working with Royal Caribbean and all cruise line partners to facilitate the successful return of cruise tourism, the statement noted.
“The Federation looks forward to welcoming the Allure of the Seas and other cruise line vessels as the re-opening continues,” the federation said.