Saga Cruises, a U.K.-based, two-ship cruise line exclusively for passengers over 50-years-old, became the first international cruise line this week to mandate that passengers show proof of COVID-19 vaccination prior to boarding.
The rule will go into effect when Saga again starts sailing, which right now is scheduled for May 2021 on its ship Spirit of Adventure. Saga made the announcement in a letter to guests posted on its website this week.
“Since I last wrote to you, we have welcomed the news that the COVID-19 vaccination [program] has started to be rolled out across the country, with many of our guests amongst the first groups of people being offered the vaccine,” CEO Nigel Blanks wrote this week.
“It is with this in mind that we have once more reviewed our health and safety procedures to ensure we are providing the safest possible cruise experience. We have taken the decision to introduce the requirement that all guest must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at least 14 days before sailing with us.”
Saga says that it believes the latest U.K. government guidance makes it so guests over 50-years-old will reasonably be likely to have access to COVID-19 vaccines prior to May (it is also offering guests the ability to change their sailing date or get a full refund if they are unable to).
The requirement makes it so guests have to be “fully vaccinated” prior to sailing, meaning those who have gotten only the first of a two-dose vaccine cannot sail and those who have gotten the vaccine within 14-days of their sailing, the time period where full immunity takes place, will also be unable to sail.
It also requires that guests bring proof of vaccination with them when they board—“You will be required to bring the vaccination document and/or evidence with you as proof at the time of boarding,” Saga’s website reads.
With questions surrounding what the future of travel, and cruise travel in particular, will look like remain, Saga is the first cruise line to require vaccinations. No major North American cruise line has mandated vaccinations yet, though none of yet been able to sail as the industry is still working with the CDC to meet the criteria for a healthy return to sailing.
Some lines have said that they expect vaccinations to be a requirement for crew members (Saga, for its part, is only requiring it for guests right now), including Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, whose CEO Frank Del Rio told John Lovell of Travel Leaders Group last year that lawyers are also “looking into” a
“vaccination mandate” for its guests but right now its “too early to tell.”
Cruise lines that have been able to successfully restart sailings in the Mediterranean haven’t required vaccinations for their guests. Their protocols largely follow guidance over mask wearing onboard, social distancing, and other changes to prevent a potential COVID-19 spread.