Two more cruise lines announce vaccine requirement

Feb 3, 2021

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Make that three cruise operators that will require all passengers to get a COVID-19 vaccine before cruising.

Indiana-based river line American Queen Steamboat Company and sister brand Victory Cruise Lines on Tuesday 2 February became the first North American cruise brands to announce that passengers will need to show proof of being vaccinated for COVID‑19 before stepping on a vessel when cruising resumes later this year.

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The two brands are following Folkstone, England-based Saga Cruises, which made a similar announcement late last month.

While American Queen and Victory hope to restart voyages in the coming months, both of the lines said the new vaccine mandate wouldn’t go into effect until 1 July. That will allow time for the vaccine to become readily available.

The American Queen steamboat. (Photo courtesy of American Queen Steamboat Company)

Until then, the lines will implement a wide range of previously announced anti-COVID-19 health measures that include pre-cruise testing of all passengers and crew for the illness and a mask mandate in all public areas where social distancing is not possible.

The previously announced measures will continue after the vaccine requirement goes into effect.

The two lines on Tuesday also announced a vaccine requirement for all crew on their vessels.

“The health and safety of our guests, crew members and partners continues to remain our top priority,” the CEO and founder of American Queen Steamboat Company, John Waggoner, said in a statement accompanying the announcement. “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.”

Waggoner said the new requirement, on top of the other previously announced measures, would “give our loyal guests another added level of assurance to join us as we return to sailing.”

The majority of American Queen and Victory passengers are over the age of 65, which means they’re already now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or soon will be.

Passengers who are unable to receive a full two-shot dose of currently available COVID-19 vaccines in time for an upcoming cruise will be able to rebook at no cost, the lines said. Those who have no intention of receiving the vaccine should contact the reservations department.

American Queen operates four riverboats on the Mississippi River complex and in the Pacific Northwest. Victory has three vessels that sail in the Great Lakes and around U.S. coastal waterways from New England to Alaska. Victory also offers cruises to Mexico and Canada.

Many other lines are looking at such a vaccine requirement, too.

In December, the top executive of the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises said its lawyers were examining the legality of such a requirement for passengers.

“It will certainly be a requirement for the crew,” Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio said in a Zoom chat with the president of Travel Leaders Group, a major cruise seller. “But it’s too early to tell whether we have the legal standing to mandate that you take a vaccine to come onboard — lawyers are looking at it as we speak.”

In a recent research report, Truist analyst C. Patrick Scholes suggested a vaccination requirement could become the norm at upscale and luxury lines such as Oceania, Regent and Silversea, based on what he’s hearing from people in the industry.

Vaccination requirements at mass-market brands were less likely, he said.

“The deciding factor for the companies may be if a cruise brand will gain more customers by requiring a vaccine than they will lose by not requiring it,” Scholes said. “In that case, it becomes a marketing issue.”

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Featured image of courtesy of American Queen Steamboat Company

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