As cruisers look for guidance on health and safety policies for upcoming sailings, it’s important to note that the rules can be ever changing, even right up to departure, according to Cruise Critic.
Over the weekend, U.S. river cruise operator American Cruise Lines surprised passengers booked on its initial sailings with a COVID-19 vaccination requirement that had not been publicized.
After starting coastal cruises March 13, American Cruise Lines revised its published policy that two negative coronavirus tests would be required – one several days before boarding and one right before embarking.
It now requires guests on its cruises through April 10 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a spokesperson told Cruise Critic. That affects the first few sailings of the line’s new ship for the Mississippi River, American Jazz.
The temporary vaccination mandate, which is not listed on the company’s website or social media channels, caught passengers scheduled to sail on the Mississippi River and other voyages unaware.
“Out of an abundance of caution for the safe operation of our ships and in collaboration with the communities we visit, American Cruise Lines required COVID-19 vaccines for its first cruises of the 2021 season,” a spokesperson for American Cruise Lines told Cruise Critic. “While we continue to strongly recommend the vaccine for all guests who are able to receive it, it is not currently required for cruises departing after April 10, 2021. American was the first company to resume cruise operations in the United States and remains committed to the safe operation of its vessels.
“We regret any inconvenience this change has caused. Affected guests have been offered a full refund or the opportunity to cruise later this season.”
Cruise Critic board members became aware of the change over the weekend after calling the cruise line to ask about its coronavirus testing requirements, only to discover they were required to be fully vaccinated.
“We are supposed to sail on the Queen of the Mississippi next week,” cwatts15 wrote. “I called to get some info today about the Covid testing and found out that they just decided that vaccinations were mandatory now.
“Unfortunately, my brother is not vaccinated because he is not eligible in his state. They said sorry he can’t go. No letter, no email, just a oh by the way your brother will not be allowed on the boat.”
“I was told also vaccinations were required by ACL yesterday (3/20/21) when I called ACL and spoke to two of their representatives,” Pmcevoy wrote. “I had never received any email informing me of this mandatory vaccination requirement, nor did my ship partner who lives in another state, but I found out about it by chance when I called (one week before departing).”
“Something doesn’t sound right,” BaumD wrote. “There is nothing on their website or in the news referencing this change. Their website still requires a negative PCR test and they recommend a vaccination but it is not required. Has anyone else been told of this requirement?”
Though many posters welcomed the change and the vaccination requirement, many expressed unhappiness at the lack of communication on the part of American Cruise Lines.
“I am happy that the cruise lines are requiring vaccination,” cwatts15 said. “I strongly feel this was handled very wrong!!! ACL made a decision abruptly last Tuesday, not in line with the other cruise companies.”
Numerous cruise lines have issued vaccine requirements for future sailings. Though American Cruise Lines said its mandate is in effect for sailings until April 10, 2021, a spokesperson said that could change.
Competitor American Queen Steamboat also requires vaccinations – but only for voyages departing from July onward. The sailings before that will rely on coronavirus tests before the cruises, as well as health and safety protocols on board.
That line christened its new ship, American Countess, in New Orleans. Cruise Critic is on that sailing and will report back this week.
American Cruise Lines continues to restart operations. Independence reentered service on March 13 and American Jazz on Sunday. The line, which has American-built ships and crew so it can sail in the USA without a foreign port stop requirement, plans to have its entire 13-vessel fleet back in service by summer.