Royal Caribbean International is resuming cruises aimed at U.S. vacationers this summer – with a twist.
The cruises will depart from Bermuda and the Bahamas, and adult passengers must be vaccinated against COVID-19. Passengers under 18 will be able to sail with a negative coronavirus test. Crew members will also be vaccinated.
The new cruises:
► A seven-night cruise departing from Nassau, the Bahamas, beginning June 12, on Adventure of the Seas. Bookings open Wednesday for sailings through Aug. 31. The Bahamas itineraries will feature island hopping with two days spent back to back at Royal Caribbean’s private island Perfect Day at CocoCay along with time spent in Grand Bahama Island and Cozumel, Mexico.
► A seven-night cruise departing from Bermuda on Vision of the Seas beginning as early as June 26, the cruise line said Tuesday. The itinerary will also include CocoCay. Reservations begin March 29.
Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, said in a statement on the Bahamas cruises that the company is looking forward to returning to the Caribbean “gradually and safely.”
“The vaccines are clearly a game-changer for all of us, and with the number of vaccinations and their impact growing rapidly, we believe starting with cruises for vaccinated adult guests and crew is the right choice,” Bayley said, noting that vaccine requirements and other safety measures are expected to evolve.
President Joe Biden directed states to make COVID-19 vaccines available to all American adults no later than May 1.
A return to sailing date in U.S. waters and whether vaccines will be required on vessels departing from the U.S. have not been made clear by Royal Caribbean.
“That is still under consideration,” Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for the cruise line, told USA TODAY. “We will continue to follow the science, and we will evolve alongside the data.”
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Royal Caribbean said in a release that it also would implement its Healthy Sail Panel Recommendations on the new cruises, including face coverings, temperature checks and testing, with additional details on health and safety to come soon.
It’s the first time the cruise line will launch cruises from the Bahamas and Bermuda.
“We are grateful for the confidence that they have in us and our commitment to a healthy and happy return to sailing,” Bayley said.
In addition to meeting Royal Caribbean’s requirements, passengers must meet the Bahamas’ entry requirements, which include a negative PCR test no more than five days ahead of arrival, a test upon arrival in the Bahamas and filling out entry forms.
Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert A. Minnis said in a statement that he expects a “vibrant” tourism season in the Bahamas.
“I am especially pleased that Royal Caribbean, with whom we have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship for more than 50 years, selected The Bahamas as a homeport when sailing resumes,” Minnis said. “This is truly a new day for tourism. It should inspire many small- to medium-sized businesses, tour operators, taxi drivers, restaurants and retailers to prepare for brighter days ahead.”
Travelers booking the new Bermuda cruises must also meet travel requirements there, which include a negative PCR test result before traveling and testing upon arrival into the country.
“We look forward to welcoming Royal Caribbean passengers back to our shores and the opportunity for pre- and post-cruise stays in Bermuda. I am very excited that Bermuda will commence safe cruising this summer with our partner Royal Caribbean for their homeporting initiative from Bermuda to their private island Perfect Day at CocoCay,” said The Hon. W. Lawrence Scott, JP, MP, Minister of Transport, Bermuda.
Royal Caribbean is also set to offer “fully vaccinated” sailings on its newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, which will make its debut in Israel in May. On the Odyssey of the Seas, all passengers over 16, plus crew members, will be required to show proof of vaccination.
Also Friday, Royal Caribbean International’s sibling line, Celebrity Cruises, which is also owned by Royal Caribbean Group, announced in a release that it would return to sailing June 5. The Celebrity Millennium will sail from St. Maarten for a series of seven-night cruises. Vaccinated crew and adult vaccinated passengers plus passengers under 18 with a negative test within 72 hours of departure will be welcome.
Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity, said in a statement that the return to cruising in the Caribbean is a “significant moment” for the cruise line.
“It marks the measured beginning of the end of what has been a uniquely challenging time for everyone,” Lutoff-Perlo said.
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Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson