PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. - Cruise industry experts say they do not think a UK’s cruise line’s move requiring passengers have the COVID vaccine before sailing will set a precedent across the industry.
European-based Saga Cruise Lines recently announced on its website, it will be resuming services in May and all passengers must be fully vaccinated 14 days before their trip.
"The Cruise Guy," Stewart Chiron, called the move premature. "They’re not a major cruise line. They're certainly not setting any precedent here." An industry expert, Chiron said he does not believe major cruise lines that service the U.S. will be basing their return to service decisions off it.
Many major cruise lines that service the U.S. have paused cruises through April.
"I can tell you that the cruise lines would prefer to ideally, they would like to get their crews vaccinated first," Chiron said. He also said right now, the COVID vaccine is not widely available in the U.S. so it does not make sense for cruise ships to make it a mandate right now.
Marisel Aleman, co-owner of Cruise Elite, Incorporated in Ormond Beach, said vaccinations could be required for cruises in the long-term but not in the short-term. "Testing is still one of the primary protocols that the conditional sale order calls for. Cruise lines haven't even started their testing cruises at this point."
FOX 35 News reached out to major cruise lines that service Port Canaveral to see if they would require passengers to be fully vaccinated against COVID before boarding a cruise ship.
A spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. said:
"The safety of our guests, crew and communities we visit remains our highest priority. We continue to closely monitor the evolving impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic and vaccine developments.
We are exploring all options regarding vaccinations for guests and crew and it is our intention that all crew members be vaccinated before boarding our vessels to begin their duties, subject to availability of the vaccine. We will continue to partner with global and domestic authorities and the Healthy Sail Panel, our team of leading expert advisors, to explore all options necessary to protect guests, crew and the communities visited. We will share additional updates as they are available."
A spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line said:
"We are currently in a pause through April 30 for all of our ships with Mardi Gras’ date from Port Canaveral moved to May 29. As we have stated consistently, we will resume service when the time is right taking a gradual, phased in approach with select ships, including Carnival Breeze from Port Canaveral. The vaccines are indeed promising and we are evaluating a number of factors to see how those would work into our return to service plan."
In a statement, Princess Cruise Line said, "The new vaccines represent an important breakthrough for people throughout the world, including the travel, hospitality and cruise industries. We are reviewing the various vaccines, but we have not made any decisions on next steps at this point."
A Royal Caribbean Group spokesperson said the company is still in the process of finalizing the details of its return to service and would release more information as it becomes available.