In the run-up to restarting operations, Royal Caribbean International was one of the first cruise lines to assure customers that when services resumed, every adult on board would be vaccinated.
The company made the declaration in late February, announcing that new ship Odyssey of the Seas would debut in the Mediterranean instead of the United States.
Well, scratch all that. Royal Caribbean takes it back.
Not only has the line yanked that ship from Haifa out of legitimate concerns over security in Israel, but now the company has also pulled the requirement that passengers arrive fully protected from Covid-19.
Royal Caribbean's guidance has been revised to state that only customers boarding ships "for cruises departing from Seattle or the Bahamas" and from international ports will be subject to a tight vaccination mandate.
For people sailing from Florida or Texas, on the other hand, the health protocols are lax. On cruises leaving from those two states, Royal Caribbean will recommend—but not require—that you be vaccinated. Only a negative Covid-19 test will be mandatory.
Everyone on the crew must be fully vaccinated no matter where the ship boards.
Why the change? Is the medical science somehow different if you're boarding from a dock in Seattle rather than Fort Lauderdale?
No, but the money is.
Royal Caribbean, which has traditionally done a lot of business out of Florida, has caved to politics-driven directives. The governors of Florida and Texas have both decreed that businesses in those states are not allowed to ask customers if they have been vaccinated.
Even if the governments of the foreign countries on a ship's itinerary request the assurance that passengers have received vaccines, the cruise companies aren't allowed to ask.
Royal Caribbean executives have tried to put an optimistic spin on their submissive backtracking. "As of today, 90% of all vacationers booking with Royal Caribbean are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise," CEO Michael Bayley said in a statement.
That leaves at least 10% of your fellow passengers who will not be.
The choice is up to consumers. Having seen what we all saw happen aboard infected cruise ships in the spring of 2020, are you willing to risk a Covid-19 outbreak on your next cruise vacation?
We're sure there will be some takers, but we're not certain the outcome will be good—particularly if a flare-up of the virus occurs in a foreign port where American officials have no authority to rescue passengers swiftly.
As for the rest of us, if you want to ensure you're sailing with other vaccinated guests, you'll have to choose a Royal Caribbean ship that doesn't leave from Florida or Texas. Or choose a different line entirely.