Will kids under 16 be able to cruise in Australia once ships return? It’s a big question for lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean, which rely on families to sail on their fleet of ships with water slides and rides aimed at the youth market.

Cruise lines in America are under immense pressure to restart operations with more ports and lines requiring passengers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

But there is a huge question mark over children under the age of 16, who are currently ineligible to receive the vaccination.

Last week, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter to cruise lines saying that they could fast-track their return to operations out of US ports in the coming weeks only if they committed to sailing with 98 per cent of crew and 95 per cent of passengers vaccinated for COVID-19.

Australia also has not approved vaccines for those under 16 years old, which suggests that when cruise comes back, Australia could face similar issues with getting children on board. This would obviously spell disappointment for families with children who were counting down the days until they could sail together again. 

Norweigan Cruise Line has announced that all passengers will require a COVID-19 vaccine to sail until at least October 31, effectively excluding children until these dates. Norwegian Cruise Line president Harry Sommer told US website The Points Guy: “We really thought long and hard about “his, and it wasn’t an easy decision. Families and children are a large part of what we do. But, for us, it has to be safety first when it comes to these things.”

However, Mr Sommer is also confident that children under the age of 12 will soon have access to the vaccine, something that could potentially have a longer delay in Australia based off of the vaccine rollout so far. 

Royal Caribbean’s president and CEO said on a conference call last week with analysts that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination was close to being approved for children as young as 12. But that would leave kids under the age without access to a vaccine.

“We think this is the next phase,” Mr Bayley said when asked about the impact of a vaccine requirement on family cruising this year. “Obviously, we carry a lot of kids 11 and under. But, relatively speaking, as a percentage of our total guest count, it’s quite a small number. So we’re not overly concerned with that.”

But cruise lines in Australia have been firm in saying that policies for cruising overseas would not necessarily apply here.

A CLIA Australia spokesperson said, “Vaccines are an important step forward in the global response to COVID-19. At the same time, we recognise that the roll-out of vaccines across the world will take some time and many uncertainties remain.”

Based on the insights and guidance from leading experts in health and science, we continue to believe that no single measure is alone effective and that a multi-layered approach is the appropriate path forward.”

Measures implemented by cruise lines will be continuously evaluated over time as circumstances related to the pandemic evolve.”

Carnival Australia had a similar response when asked about the possibility of children being banned when Australian cruising returns.

“We don’t wish to contribute to speculation based on media reports from a separate international market. Our focus remains on supporting the peak industry body, Cruise Lines International Association Australasia (CLIA), as it works with government agencies to establish a pathway for the careful resumption of cruising in Australia beginning with domestic cruises.”