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Travel Advisors Mixed on Cruise Lines’ Vaccine Requirements

Vaccines are rolling out faster than ever around the country with nearly three million shots being administered every day. This has led to an uptick in travel bookings both among the vaccinated—and those who are rejecting shots.

In light of the growing numbers of people being inoculated against COVID-19, a few cruise lines recently announced that they would be operating sailings from homeports in the Bahamas for vaccinated travelers only.

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At once, the announcement was both heralded and decried by cruisers, as many who are vaccinated already or plan to be soon rushed to book sailings. Those who are against receiving inoculations now or ever called for boycotts of cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean.

TravelPulse asked travel advisors how they felt about the issue and how clients felt about the situation. Many felt that it was a part of current safety measures and that clients understood.

“We haven’t experienced any pushback or negative feedback from clients regarding cruise lines requiring vaccines,” said Jeremy Hall of Cruise Vacations International. “It seems to me that avid cruisers are well aware of the safety measures that need to be in place and the majority of those cruisers are more than willing to comply.”

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As the vaccines have rolled out, Hall noted an uptick in business.

“We have seen a boom in bookings lately and, as our older clients are receiving their second doses, they are calling us almost at the same time to begin planning their next adventure,” he said.

Valerie Dorsey, a luxury travel specialist with Cruise Planners, said that she believes vaccines are going to be a “strong stimulant” to business.

“It will give people much more confidence in the safety of cruising,” said Dorsey. “I already have people calling and announcing they have been vaccinated. I think consumers want this extra layer of protection after the long delay in restarting cruises.”

She finds the vaccine provides a level of comfort for herself, as well.

“I am trying to book myself on a cruise out of the Caribbean and I am doing so because I am fully vaccinated and will feel comfortable with others having the same level of protection,” she said. “I don’t believe if we start with vaccine-only cruises, that we will go backwards with that until the pandemic is over, if ever.”

Scott Lara, the Cruise Genius, has found his clients are choosing alternative vacations if they aren’t interested in vaccines.

“I’m very concerned that many Americans are strongly anti-vax and will not cruise if vaccines are mandatory,” said Lara. “More and more of my clients are booking their vacations at all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica.”

Tammy Levent, CEO of Elite Travel, sees her clients booking land vacations and said that many of her clients don’t want to be vaccinated.

“Travel is picking up and I’m getting a lot of calls and this [vaccines] is the number-one concern that people have,” said Levent. “We have had no calls, however, for cruise bookings.”

Levent has seen plenty of interest in travel to other destinations, including Mexico, the Caribbean, Las Vegas and Hawaii, to name a few.

Brad Striegel, a Cruise Planners advisor and franchise owner, also says vaccine mandates are a bad idea and believes that there could be legal ramifications.

“There can be negative strategic consequences when mandating or coercing the use of unapproved drugs, from potential negative side effects not yet discovered to lawsuits with travel companies,” he said. “Lawsuits are already being submitted on this issue around the world and at least 18 European countries have halted AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to investigate potential side effects.”

After the recent announcement that cruises would sail from the Caribbean, ASTA urged the Biden Administration and the CDC to allow cruises to operate from U.S. ports starting July 1, 2021.

“We fully expect Americans ready to cruise will now begin their journeys by flying to the Caribbean instead of directly to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale,” said ASTA president and CEO, Zane Kerby. “In recognition of the fact that vaccination rates are rising while both infection and mortality rates are declining, these forward-thinking Caribbean islands are now home port for some of the world’s largest cruise ships. In contrast, the CDC’s continued inaction in removing cruise restrictions imperil livelihoods and communities in South Florida, up to now the de facto cruise capital of the world, and far beyond. It is a shame that the CDC’s inflexibility has brought us to this point.

“We therefore call on the CDC to immediately lift its restrictions on cruising and set July 1st as the date that cruising can resume from U.S. ports.”

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