Royal Caribbean International has added another requirement for unvaccinated cruisers in Florida: They must have travel insurance.
Starting August 1, guests who do not volunteer their vaccination status on the company's ships in that state will be assumed to be unvaccinated. As a consequence, extra measures must be taken to ensure the safe evacuation of those passengers in case they carry disease on board.
Unvaccinated guests (and those who cannot prove they are vaccinated) will be required to purchase travel insurance that covers at least $25,000 per person in medical expenses and $50,000 per person in case quarantining and evacuation are required.
Proof of the insurance policy must be shown before boarding will be allowed. Customers may choose their own insurers or use Royal Caribbean's add-on package, which supplies the necessary coverage.
By the end of August, five Royal Caribbean ships will be sailing from Florida, and all of them will be subject to the new rule through the end of this year.
The mandate applies to all travelers over the age of 12 and affects all bookings going forward, but not reservations made on or before June 28, 2021. Passengers who are not yet eligible for the vaccine need only show a negative Covid-19 test and follow health protocols.
Why is this happening? Partly because the state government of Florida said it would be illegal for cruise lines to ask whether guests are vaccinated. Unable to mitigate risk by leaving potentially infected cruisers at the dock, Royal Caribbean is covering its financial bases once those cruisers board.
Royal Caribbean and sister line Celebrity Cruises have already announced they will charge unvaccinated guests $136 (or $178 per guest on sailings of seven nights or more) to offset the associated costs of catering to them on journeys.
The insurance requirement is sure to set off another minor storm of controversy among some cruisers.
But even if you're not being forced, buying insurance is still a smart idea if you're unvaccinated, particularly if you plan to travel beyond the reach of your usual medical insurance. Here's our guide to what to look for in a policy.
To make sure you have proper documentation of your vaccination status, read our guide to obtaining free proof that is likely to be accepted abroad.