Royal Caribbean setting sail next month from US for first time in a year

Cruise line's CEO says '90% of all vacationers' are vaccinated or plan to be vaccinated in time for their cruise

Royal Caribbean International plans to set sail from Texas and Florida next month for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic sidelined the entire cruise industry more than a year ago, the company announced Friday. 

The first ship will take off from Miami on July 2 for a special Fourth of July weekend trip, and the cruise line said a dozen ships will be in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Alaska and Europe by the end of August. 

Michael Bayley, CEO of Royal Caribbean International, credited America's vaccine rollout with the relaunch of the cruise industry. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
RCL ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES 88.52 +1.59 +1.83%

"Thanks in large part to the successful rollout of vaccines, the world of adventure is beginning to open up, and we are all excited to start delivering great vacations to our guests, who have increasingly told us they are getting vaccinated," Bayley said in a statement Friday. 

"As of today, 90% of all vacationers booking with Royal Caribbean are either vaccinated or planning to get vaccinated in time for their cruise."

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Royal Caribbean's new ship, Odyssey of the Seas, will set sail from Florida for the first time next month.  (Royal Caribbean International)

The cruise line said that all crew members will be vaccinated and that guests "who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols, which will be announced at a later date."

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned businesses from requiring that customers be vaccinated against COVID-19 earlier this year. 

The attorney general of Florida also sued the Biden administration in April, pushing for the CDC to throw out the evolving "conditional sailing order" that was first imposed on cruise lines in March 2020. In the CDC's latest update, the agency said that 95% of cruise line passengers must be fully vaccinated. 

The Radiance of the Seas, A Royal Caribbean cruise ship, docked in Seward, Alaska. (iStock)

DeSantis said yesterday that the mediator in that lawsuit declared an impasse in negotiations and slammed the CDC's vaccination requirement. 

"The CDC’s ridiculous percentage for vaccinated cruise passengers — 95% — is contrary to the president’s own benchmark for societal immunity," DeSantis said Thursday. 

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In Alaska, which does not have a ban on vaccine passports, all passengers who are 16 or older must be fully vaccinated to go on a cruise in July, Royal Caribbean said Friday. 

Federal lawyers have argued that if Florida wins an injunction blocking the conditional sailing order, then it would "end cruising in Alaska for the season," because a bill passed by Congress last month that restarted cruises in Alaska depends on the order being in place. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.