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Reality of RCCL's COVID policies on August 13, 2021 Alaska sailing?


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Posted (edited)

I'm rather new to Cruise Critic, so if this is posted in the wrong place or duplicates another post, please accept my apologies. I did search for an existing thread (which I thought for sure would have been created already), but didn't find one. I also apologize if the tone of my post feels somewhat entitled or insensitive – that's not my goal; but there are definitely some pointed questions below.

 

We received the COVID protocols e-mail for our 2021 Alaska sailing on the Ovation. You can view them here, on RCCL's website: https://www.royalcaribbean.com/the-healthy-sail-center/getting-ready-to-cruise?dPort=seattle. That web page includes a link to a grid of onboard venues and whether unvaccinated passengers are allowed in each.

 

As fully-vaccinated passengers, we're hoping for a mostly (if not completely) maskless cruise. But based on those protocols, it seems like RCCL is catering to the lowest common denominator. I suspect we'll have to wait for reports and videos from the Serenade of the Seas to see just how aggressively RCCL implements mask wearing, and how successfully the ship's company is at minimizing the effect unvaccinated passengers have on everyone else.

 

First of all, does anyone know for sure (i.e., not conjecture) if the Ovation of the Seas sailing from Seattle on August 13th will be at full capacity?

 

Second, RCCL asserts the Ovation will be at least 95% fully vaccinated (all crew, and all passengers 12 and older). To what extent do those 5% of unvaccinated passengers (i.e., children 11 and younger with their parents) have the ability to impact the cruise for everyone else? If the ship is at full 4,905 capacity, 5% is only 245 children plus their older siblings and parents. Does that mean ~700 passengers are going to dictate the enjoyment of the cruise for the remaining ~4,200, because any time one of those unvaccinated shows up, everyone has to throw on a facemask?

 

Third, RCCL designates several venues as "vaccinated only" (like the Casino, which - duh - is always adults-only anyway), but then others areas like Coastal Kitchen and Windjammer Marketplace buffet are not. The protocols state, "When indoors, CDC guidelines require all guests 2 and older to wear masks unless they are actively eating or drinking. The CDC does make allowances for guests to remove their masks in venues and events dedicated to fully vaccinated parties."

 

So is everyone going to have to wear masks (except for babies and toddlers) because there might be an unvaccinated child or family member in a room that hasn't been dedicated to fully-vaccinated parties? Coastal Kitchen, Windjammer Marketplace buffet, Chops, and Izumi are not "vaccinated only" areas like the Solarium, Vitality Spa, and American Icon/Silk main dining rooms. Does that mean everyone going to Coastal Kitchen (or to the concierge table, or to just sit in the suites lounge up there) will have to have a mask on at all times because a 10-year-old could walk in at any moment? At Chops, do we have to keep our masks on until the food is served?

 

When we go to the Royal Theater showroom and can only find seats on Deck 4 (the only place unvaccinated can sit), will we have to wear a mask for the entire show? For that matter, will everyone in the theater need to wear masks, regardless of where they're sitting because there's an 8-year-old and her dad sitting nearby?

 

If we're sitting out on a deck chair near the pool and the area starts to get crowded, will the crew make everyone put their masks on? Or will we have to wear masks any time we're not in a "venue," a restaurant, or our cabin? Will everyone outside on deck looking at the glaciers have to wear masks, with all of our glasses fogging up so we can't see anything?

 

What about shore excursions? Unvaccinated people are not allowed off the ship except on RCCL-sold tours. Will RCCL segregate the unvaccinated families on their own unvaccinated tour buses/boats/rafts/helicopters, or will those of us who are vaccinated be required to wear masks on all tours if some 5-year-old kid and his mom are on the same shore excursion? If we're on the whale watching tour, will we all have to wear masks inside and out because one family with a 9-year-old kid is also on the boat?

 

Since my family is spending a lot much money this cruise with multiple cabins for all of us, we really want some assurances from RCCL that our Alaska cruise on the Ovation will be more like the Adventure of the Seas experience (not a mask in sight, even with kids onboard), and not more like Disneyland pre-June 25th (where everyone had to wear masks just in case).

 

We definitely don't want to deny those families with children the amazing experience of visiting Alaska on Royal Caribbean; we just don't want them to ruin the cruise for everyone else. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem because those who are vaccinated would just go about their business unmasked, enjoying their 67-95% protection against COVID, while the unvaccinated who all tested negative for COVID prior to the cruise could go about their business as well. No drama.

 

But these protocols RCCL released raise a spectre of promoting arguments between vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, unfairly limiting vaccinated passengers' enjoyment based on a very low risk that an unvaccinated passenger who tested negative actually has COVID, and relying on security theater instead of common-sense prevention.

 

I truly hope these aggressive protocols were drafted just to placate the CDC, but when implemented will have no impact on the actual cruise.

 

 

Edited by RichardRahl
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Welcome to cruise critic. I see you want assurances from royal that they wouldnt require you to wear masks when you think it will interfere with your cruise. I doubt that is possible.

 

You ask about 100% capacity but to my knowledge no cruiseline, including royal has sailed anywhere close to 100%, but exactly what it will be royal cant tell you because of laws preventing them discussing revenue as it might affect their stock prices. They have never given projections to my knowledge of future capacity.

 

I do think non vaccinated can only do bubble tours, so just dont book them. That being said I do know  lot of ports require masks. 

 

I think the assurances you want are impossible. 

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About all that can be guaranteed is that since you are sailing from Seattle, everyone who can be vaccinated will be vaccinated on this cruise.  After Aug 1st, all passengers 12 and older must be vaccinated, and must show proof of their final vaccine was 14 days prior to their sailing.  Upon entering the terminal at Pier 91, each passenger will present their proof of vaccination (vaccine card) to the wellness team who, after checking the last vaccine date, will capture an image of the card.  Passengers will have to attest that the card and information is true & authentic.

 

Since your cruise is Aug 13, which is the Ovation's first Alaska cruise for the season, it is unlikely that it will be sailing at or even near capacity (IMO).

 

As for life on-board with masks - everything is fluid right now.  I think since you know that masks are currently expected to be in use on board during your cruise, you have to decide if you still want to sail, or perhaps reschedule for the 2022 season when hopefully we are even in a better place pandemic-wise.

 

Please remember to  bring the correct travel ID (Passports, passport cards, birth certificate with photo ID), along with your vaccine card.  Checking in online will make for a seamless experience at Pier 91, and get you on the ship faster.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, RichardRahl said:

First of all, does anyone know for sure (i.e., not conjecture) if the Ovation of the Seas sailing from Seattle on August 13th will be at full capacity?

I can be 100% certain that the ship will not be at 100% capacity, but you won't get any kind of confirmation from anyone, including RCI, until you get on board. 

 

Biker, who stays away from absolutes.

Edited by Biker19
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Threads discussing Royal Caribbeans protocols seem to magically disappear. Seems cruise critic wants to keep it all on the lowdown as much as royal does. This is the Royal board so obviously most here enjoy cruising with them but I think the vast majority are disappointed in the way they are handling this whole situation.  Long story short, if you want a 95% plus vaccinated cruise, without having to mask up and deal with all the vax vs unvaxxed drama you should cancel and book with carnival or NCL

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I am also on this sailing (come join us for the Roll Call!) and have many of the same concerns. We are booked in a suite for the first time and was looking forward to enjoying the Suite Lounge and Coastal Kitchen, but am wondering if I will end up in the MDR instead if I don't have to wear a mask there (fully vaccinated venue) vs the suite areas which are mixed and likely will require a mask when I am not ACTIVELY eating or drinking. I have talked to several tour companies and very few private tours are available at all when we are there (much less this season than typical and most spaces have been sold directly to the ships). Those through the ship have said that masks will be required whenever indoors (helicopter, boats with indoor seating, buses, ferries, etc.) It is definitely a struggle choosing between spending a ton of money to go on a vacation that will not feel like a "get-away" from life during the pandemic  vs not getting to go away at all and waiting a whole year more to visit Alaska by cruise. 

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We booked Ovation for the Aug 20 sailing today. We live in a state where masking was strongly enforced until recently and many people still continue to wear them, so it doesn’t bother us, and we were fine with the protocols. I’m looking forward to sailing with fewer passengers since Alaska is typically more crowded. I see this as a great opportunity that probably won’t happen again. And since I’m usually eating or drinking while in the Coastal Kitchen and Suite Lounge, I don’t  see masks as an issue there. When restaurants reopened where I live, masks were required but only when walking around the restaurant—for example when going into the restroom. And that wasn’t a problem and definitely didn’t make me feel like my dining experience was ruined. 
 

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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, sherylc said:

I have talked to several tour companies and very few private tours are available at all when we are there (much less this season than typical and most spaces have been sold directly to the ships). Those through the ship have said that masks will be required whenever indoors (helicopter, boats with indoor seating, buses, ferries, etc.)


What about when you’re outside watching the otters & whales in Sitka, walking around on the glacier or riding the dog sleds after the helicopter ride, on the open-air streetcars in Skagway, or outside at the Salmon Bake in Juneau?

 

 

Edited by RichardRahl
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Assume that Royal will follow and enforce whatever protocols they have posted for the ship. There's a possibility it will change, but I wouldn't count on it with it only being a month away. 

 

If you don't want to wear a mask indoors then I suggest you cancel your sailing. No matter how long of a post you type it won't get Royal to change its rules. 

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2 hours ago, zpdw484 said:

Threads discussing Royal Caribbeans protocols seem to magically disappear. Seems cruise critic wants to keep it all on the lowdown as much as royal does.


We are totally free to call RCI a bunch of dumbasses, and point out their communication has been god awful. The threads get shut down when people start sharing their thoughts on Covid and public health in general. 

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Posted (edited)

Always remember how you the cruise contract works. You are Lando Calrissian. They are Darth Vader. They can alter the deal any way they want. All you can do is pray they don’t alter it further. 
 

And sure, they could alter it for the better. And the Easter bunny might leave some chocolate eggs on my balcony next cruise. But I wouldn’t count on either. Especially as I’m booked in an inside cabin. 

Edited by zekekelso
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As fully-vaccinated passengers, we're hoping for a mostly (if not completely) maskless cruise. But based on those protocols, it seems like RCCL is catering to the lowest common denominator.

Nope. You need to wear a mask most of the time you are in public spaces on the ship. They are being compliant with the CDC regulations. 

 

Second, RCCL asserts the Ovation will be at least 95% fully vaccinated (all crew, and all passengers 12 and older). To what extent do those 5% of unvaccinated passengers (i.e., children 11 and younger with their parents) have the ability to impact the cruise for everyone else?

The presence of unvaccinated passengers drives the protocols that need to be followed. You need to wear a mask. I have not looked this week, but on prior cruises, there were more than 5% unvaccinated passengers onboard. 

 

So is everyone going to have to wear masks (except for babies and toddlers) because there might be an unvaccinated child or family member in a room that hasn't been dedicated to fully-vaccinated parties? Coastal Kitchen, Windjammer Marketplace buffet, Chops, and Izumi are not "vaccinated only" areas like the Solarium, Vitality Spa, and American Icon/Silk main dining rooms. Does that mean everyone going to Coastal Kitchen (or to the concierge table, or to just sit in the suites lounge up there) will have to have a mask on at all times because a 10-year-old could walk in at any moment? At Chops, do we have to keep our masks on until the food is served?

The protocol only allows you to lower your mask briefly to sip a drink or place food in your mouth. You need to wear a mask

 

When we go to the Royal Theater showroom and can only find seats on Deck 4 (the only place unvaccinated can sit), will we have to wear a mask for the entire show? For that matter, will everyone in the theater need to wear masks, regardless of where they're sitting because there's an 8-year-old and her dad sitting nearby?

You need to wear a mask

 

If we're sitting out on a deck chair near the pool and the area starts to get crowded, will the crew make everyone put their masks on? Or will we have to wear masks any time we're not in a "venue," a restaurant, or our cabin? Will everyone outside on deck looking at the glaciers have to wear masks, with all of our glasses fogging up so we can't see anything?

You need to wear a mask

 

What about shore excursions? Unvaccinated people are not allowed off the ship except on RCCL-sold tours. Will RCCL segregate the unvaccinated families on their own unvaccinated tour No. buses/boats/rafts/helicopters No. , or will those of us who are vaccinated be required to wear masks on all tours if some 5-year-old kid and his mom are on the same shore excursion TBD. ? If we're on the whale watching tour, will we all have to wear masks inside and out because one family with a 9-year-old kid is also on the boat? If that is the protocol. 

 

Since my family is spending a lot much money this cruise with multiple cabins for all of us, we really want some assurances from RCCL that our Alaska cruise on the Ovation will be more like the Adventure of the Seas experience (not a mask in sight, even with kids onboard), and not more like Disneyland pre-June 25th (where everyone had to wear masks just in case). You need to wear a mask

 

I truly hope these aggressive protocols were drafted just to placate the CDC, but when implemented will have no impact on the actual cruise. You need to wear a mask

 

If you don't want to wear a mask, book a NCL cruise or sail on the Adventure of the Seas out of Nassau (which does not follow the CDC guidelines). We have done both of these, for that reason. 

 

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I think that there were risks in taking a cruise that is literally one of the first to sail in almost a year and a half. The guidelines can, and will, continuously change. You will have to expect to have the unexpected happen, and go with the flow. You could spend your whole cruise worrying about how you think it should be or what you want it to be, or go into it knowing it won't be perfect and enjoy it for what it is. 

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I booked Ovation for September, thinking a vaccinated cruise meant the same protocols as on Adventure, where I had just enjoyed a maskless cruise. Devil is in the details as they say. The bottom line is you are booking x number of nights passage leaving from a given port. That's about the only thing that is defined. 

 

I can tell you that on my Adventure sailing I saw zero effort to force mask compliance for children. They had the run of the ship with chin masks. Perhaps that will be the same on your sailing. 

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59 minutes ago, BirdTravels said:

So is everyone going to have to wear masks (except for babies and toddlers) because there might be an unvaccinated child or family member in a room that hasn't been dedicated to fully-vaccinated parties? Coastal Kitchen, Windjammer Marketplace buffet, Chops, and Izumi are not "vaccinated only" areas like the Solarium, Vitality Spa, and American Icon/Silk main dining rooms. Does that mean everyone going to Coastal Kitchen (or to the concierge table, or to just sit in the suites lounge up there) will have to have a mask on at all times because a 10-year-old could walk in at any moment? At Chops, do we have to keep our masks on until the food is served?

The protocol only allows you to lower your mask briefly to sip a drink or place food in your mouth. You need to wear a mask

 

You're confusing a cruise ship for an airplane. As strict as the RCCL protocols are, they are not airplane strict. At dinner, at the buffet, at Chops, etc. passengers will NOT have to wear masks while dining. Maybe walking from your cabin to the restaurant to your table, but definitely not once you're sitting at your table with food in front of you; that's already been established. So it makes me question whether any of your authoritative-sounding answers are actually correct. I sincerely doubt it, so please stop scaring everyone.

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2 hours ago, zekekelso said:

Always remember how you the cruise contract works. You are Lando Calrissian. They are Darth Vader. They can alter the deal any way they want. All you can do is pray they don’t alter it further. 

 

We're likely going to alter the deal ourselves since RCCL seems to have decided to do a bait-and-switch. As others have pointed out, there are NCL and Princess cruises that are 100% vaccinated sailing in August as well. Maybe if RCCL loses our business and others', it'll send a message and make it better for those who choose to remain on the Ovation and Serenade.

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5 hours ago, RichardRahl said:

 

We're likely going to alter the deal ourselves since RCCL seems to have decided to do a bait-and-switch. As others have pointed out, there are NCL and Princess cruises that are 100% vaccinated sailing in August as well. Maybe if RCCL loses our business and others', it'll send a message and make it better for those who choose to remain on the Ovation and Serenade.

I don't blame you one bit. If things remain this way we will bail out on our Oct cruise also. It blows my mind that after having 16 months to sit around and ponder  this is what they come up with. Like you said "catering to the lowest common denominator". Makes absolutely no sense. I agree about the bait and switch. They are not technically "hiding" the protocols from people but they are definitely not making them clear and up front either.  They seem to want to wait until close enough to sailing date to disclose them that it puts people in a tough spot as far as cancelling and finding another alternative. They expect people to be so desperate and excited to cruise that they just go along with it.  Things are very fluid due to covid but royal could definitely do better.

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9 hours ago, RichardRahl said:

 

We're likely going to alter the deal ourselves since RCCL seems to have decided to do a bait-and-switch. As others have pointed out, there are NCL and Princess cruises that are 100% vaccinated sailing in August as well. Maybe if RCCL loses our business and others', it'll send a message and make it better for those who choose to remain on the Ovation and Serenade.

good for you.  We had to lift and shift our may 2021 Alaska cruise to 5/22 unfortunately but if it was a go, there is no way I'd pay all that money to sail fully vaccinated with a mask like it's 3/2020.  Absolutely ridiculous.  

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9 hours ago, RichardRahl said:

 

You're confusing a cruise ship for an airplane. As strict as the RCCL protocols are, they are not airplane strict. At dinner, at the buffet, at Chops, etc. passengers will NOT have to wear masks while dining. Maybe walking from your cabin to the restaurant to your table, but definitely not once you're sitting at your table with food in front of you; that's already been established. So it makes me question whether any of your authoritative-sounding answers are actually correct. I sincerely doubt it, so please stop scaring everyone.

@BirdTravels has been sailing on a couple different cruises since June.  

I dont know if you sailed yet, but I believe and trust from his recent experiences.

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The best thing you could do right now if you really need a vacation and do not want any masks, social distancing, etc., is go to Florida and visit the themeparks.  They have gotten rid of all protocols and are back to the original "normal".

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Celebrity Millennium is sailing from Seattle to Alaska with very few protocols. You would not have to wear a mask except when in the cruise terminal and boarding. On your own tours are allowed. You can check this out yourself at CelebrityCruises.com. Click on health protocols from the home page. Scroll down to see a link to protocols and find information pertaining to every departure port. 
 

I have only sailed on Celebrity Edge, but Celebrity has a suite program that rivals or exceeds Royal Caribbean’s. 
 

Celebrity allows no more than 5% unvaccinated children on their ships. The numbers on Edge have been less than 2%. However if you are afraid you are going to contract Covid from a recently tested child 11 years old or younger or their vaccinated parents, you may want to consider other options. 

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36 minutes ago, GA Dave said:

The best thing you could do right now if you really need a vacation and do not want any masks, social distancing, etc., is go to Florida and visit the themeparks.  They have gotten rid of all protocols and are back to the original "normal".

 

The goal is to go to our favorite destination – Alaska, not Disney or some boring Caribbean itinerary.

 

We were led to believe that RCCL would be 100% vaccinated since they’re sailing out if Seattle and aren’t hamstrung by Florida’s ignorant anti-vaccine law. Had we known RCCL was going to betray our trust, we would have booked on Princess, NCL, or Celebrity (all of which have stuck to their guns in favor of vaccinated passengers).

 

The lack of common sense coming out of the CDC and RCCL is on par with Florida’s, which is just as frustrating. If every passenger over 12 yrs old is vaccinated, and every passenger under 12 tests negative for COVID, then what’s the maskless danger? Adventure of the Seas didn’t have any problem with this.

 

5 minutes ago, seabeew said:

Celebrity Millennium is sailing from Seattle to Alaska with very few protocols. You would not have to wear a mask except when in the cruise terminal and boarding. On your own tours are allowed.
 

I have only sailed on Celebrity Edge, but Celebrity has a suite program that rivals or exceeds Royal Caribbean’s.

 

Celebrity is also $10-$15,000 more than Royal Caribbean for the same size room. That’s why we chose RCCL in the first place – a little more budget friendly for our first return to cruising. I guess the old adage “you get what you pay for” applies here, unfortunately. We won’t be making that mistake again, for sure. Our 15 years of RCCL loyalty is truly being tested, and I’m quite happy to give our future business to better cruise lines if RCCL comes up short.

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