Will cruise lines lower vaccination age requirement now that young kids can get the vaccine?

Will cruise lines lower vaccination age requirement now that young kids can get the vaccine?

TORONTO — As one of the hardest-hit sectors in travel, the cruise industry was among the first to mandate vaccination for guests, with the majority of cruise lines requiring full vaccination for those ages 12 and up. But with kids ages 5-11 now eligible for the Pfizer vaccine in Canada and the United States, we wanted to know: will cruise lines be lowering the age requirement of vaccine policies to include this younger age group?

Princess Cruises tells Travelweek that given the CDC’s news on recommending the Pfizer vaccine for 5-11 year olds, “we can now extend vaccinated cruising to this age group who receive this specific vaccination.”

The statement went on to read: “Princess Cruises is currently committed to operating vaccinated cruises, as defined by the CDC, through Feb. 28, 2022 and 5-11-year-olds will be eligible to sail on these cruises. In accordance with CDC guidelines, these cruises are available for guests who will be fully vaccinated at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise, and provide proof of vaccination plus proof of a negative viral COVID-19 test within two days of departure.”

Over at Royal Caribbean International, which is requiring guests 12 years and older to show proof of a negative antigen or PCR test before boarding, Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, tells Travelweek that the company has not decided to change the age requirement, however, guests ages 5-11 years may present proof of full vaccination and follow the same protocols for vaccinated guests.

“We continue to follow the evolving science alongside our Chief Medical Officer and working closely with public health experts around the world,” says Freed. “If and when any of the current protocols change, we are committed to providing enough lead time for travel partners to communicate with their clients and help make the best decisions for them.”

Carnival Cruise Line says that it will continue to operate vaccinated voyages and follow all existing protocols through the end of March 2022, and will manage an exemption process for a small number of guests who have been ineligible for vaccines. The cruise line tells Travelweek that in previous months, the number of exemptions it has been able to grant is far fewer than the requests it received. Now that the U.S. has approved the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11, “getting children into the fully vaccinated category will allow more of them onboard, and allow them access to the guest experience our current guests are enjoying.”

At Scenic Group, Travelweek has confirmed that the company will be including kids ages 5-11 in its vaccination mandate. It currently requires all guests, including children, and crew to be fully vaccinated at least two weeks before departure. It is also allowing children over the age of 7 on its river cruises.

“For the safety of both the crew and the guests, it is essential that all people onboard our ships are vaccinated,” says the company. “Although vaccination is not a guarantee against getting COVID-19, the science shows they are highly effective. Along with other safety procedures like masks, social distancing, temperature checks and more, this safeguard allows us to operate with all the opportunities for our guests to enjoy.”

And finally, Stéphanie Bishop, Managing Director of Globus family of brands, which includes Avalon Waterways, tells Travelweek that when and where children qualify for vaccination, they will be required to be vaccinated like all guests. The company currently requires proof of full COVID-19 vaccination to join any vacation in its portfolio through 2022.

“The health and safety of our travellers is our #1 priority,” she says. “We believe that vaccination against COVID-19 is the best and, for now, the only way to operate vacations safely and successfully. And this policy has been very well received by our guests.”

To read the entire article, including what travel agents are saying about how vaccinating kids will impact forward bookings, click here for the Dec. 2 issue of Travelweek.

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