American Queen Steamboat Co and Victory Cruise Lines are to introduce mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all passengers, crew and tour coach drivers for sailings starting 1 July.

The move comes as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced compulsory face masks for all when on board cruise ships and inside cruise terminals. The new ruling came into effect from February 2.

AQSC and Victory have seven vessels across their fleet.

Previously, only Saga has ruled that all passengers must be vaccinated before sailing on its fleet of ocean and river cruise ships – but this does not include crew members.

Norwegian Cruise Line has also indicated the line was interested in getting all crew vaccinated before they begin their duties on board its ships.

“Vaccination requirement for both our guests and crew is the most prudent next step to ensure that we are providing the safest cruising experience possible,” John Waggoner, chief executive and founder of AQSC told Seatrade Cruise News.

“Our new vaccination requirement, coupled with comprehensive health and safety protocols and risk-free booking policy, will give our loyal guests another added level of assurance to join us as we return to sailing,” he added.

The introduction of vaccination by AQSC and Victory takes its health and safety protocols to another level. Last year, both lines started pre-cruise COVID-19 testing for all passengers and crew who must also use face masks in all public areas when onboard the ships.

Both lines have been working closely with health advisers and the CDC to develop guidelines to protect everyone on board as well as communities the ships visit.

The majority of the two lines’ customers are 65 years of age and older. If passengers intending to cruise are unable to have both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine prior to their scheduled departure, the lines will rebook them for a later sailing at no charge.