This applies to sailings beginning July 1 across all seven vessels in the AQSC and Victory fleets.
Surpasses Saga, NCLH plans
Prior to this, only Saga has mandated passenger (but not crew) vaccination, while Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has expressed its intention all crew be vaccinated before boarding to begin their duties.
The AQSC and Victory requirement expands on enhanced health and safety measures announced in 2020, which include pre-cruise COVID-19 testing of all passengers and crew and a mask mandate in all public areas where social distancing is not possible. Both lines are continuing to work with health advisors, including Vikand Solutions, and under the discretion of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on evolving guidelines to protect those on their vessels and in communities visited.
'Most prudent next step'
'Vaccination requirement for both our guests and crew is the most prudent next step to ensure that we are providing the safest cruising experience possible,' said John Waggoner, CEO and founder of AQSC. 'Our new vaccination requirement, coupled with comprehensive health and safety protocols and risk-free booking policy, will give our loyal guests another added level of assurance to join us as we return to sailing.'
Most customers are 65-plus
The majority of the two brands' customers are 65-plus and therefore eligible now, or soon will be, for vaccination stateside. If a traveler is not able to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine prior to their scheduled trip, the lines will rebook them for a future cruise at no charge.
CDC considers crew essential workers
Based on the current CDC recommendation that Phase 1c of the vaccination allocation includes essential workers engaged in transportation, vaccinations should readily be available for crew members before the July 1 target date, the lines said.
In addition, all drivers for shoreside excursions will need to be vaccinated. Vaccination of other shoreside employees will not be mandated initially.
What about day visitors to the vessels?
The current requirement applies only to those remaining overnight on the vessel. Others boarding the vessels and not staying overnight will undergo the other mandated health and safety protocols.
All existing health and safety protocols will continue to remain in place following July 1 and until the CDC recommends otherwise.
Customers who are unable to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine prior to their scheduled trip, or who have no intention of receiving the vaccine, should contact the reservations department.
Sailings expected to start in April
Passenger operations are expected to begin in April, before the vaccination mandate takes effect. The company said it has received 'strong interest for our April through June itineraries from guests who are confident in our current measures.
'Additionally, a good number of these guests will have had access to the vaccine prior. This, combined with our belief that crew will be vaccinated per the CDC recommendation Phase 1c vaccination rollout includes maritime transportation workers, further ensures our confidence to cruise safely.'
Vikand supplements Ochsner Health
The new partnership with Vikand just started and supplements the affiliation with Ochsner Health.