Cruise lines are taking legal advice over the possibilities of enforcing a vaccinated-only passenger policy.
And some have already announced tough new regulations about who they will allow to board their ships.
Cunard, for instance, has issued an “Emergency Notification” to guests with pre-existing conditions saying guests who need supplementary oxygen, kidney dialysis or a ventilator can no longer cruise with the line.
Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio told a travel agents’ forum the cruise company is looking at whether or not being vaccinated can be mandated, according to leading trade site Travel Weekly.
Maintaining that ship’s crews will be required to vaccinate, Mr Del Rio said: “But it’s too early to tell whether we have the legal standing to mandate that you take a vaccine to come onboard — lawyers are looking at it as we speak.”
“We have to build confidence in our customers and among ourselves that it’s safe to cruise,” he said.
Mr Del Rio, a veteran of the industry, predicted Europe could be open to cruise in April or May, but that Canada’s pandemic problems made Alaska uncertain.
But he said the last three months of the year will see a strong return, with 2022 showing all fleets in action.
Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain believes the vaccine is the magic bullet the cruise lines have been waiting for. But he also echoes the pragmatic stance of all lines: COVID-19 can’t be eliminated entirely, and cases will come.
It’s why so much has been spent on technology and new medical facilities.
“You can’t eliminate Covid-19 in society, and you can’t totally eliminate it on a cruise ship,” he said this week. “The objective wasn’t to eliminate it; it was to make the cruise ship safer than you are in your hometown, and if there is a case it remains a case rather than an outbreak.”
One area still a big question mark, however, is travel insurance.
While you can get cover before you board a cruise, no-one is prepared to offer insurance against a pandemic outbreak while you are on a ship.
Cover-More, Australia’s leading travel insurance and assistance provider, this week announced the launch of new travel insurance benefits for COVID-19 when Australians travel domestically, and to New Zealand.
Cover-More’s new COVID-19 benefits will also offer previously-unavailable protection for overseas travel to other countries as official ‘travel bubbles’ are agreed and announced by the Australian Government.
But the policies don’t cover anyone actually on a cruise.
Medibank, which does offer cover for cancellation because you contract the disease, specifically excludes multi-night cruise vacations.