Want to cruise from Florida but don't want to get a COVID vaccine? Royal Caribbean says buy travel insurance

Morgan Hines

Royal Caribbean International will require passengers ages 12 and up who choose not to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to purchase travel insurance – if they're departing from Florida. 

"The insurance must cover medical, travel and other related costs for COVID-19 should they test positive while on board," Royal Caribbean said in a statement provided by spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Caro.

Outside of Florida, Royal Caribbean is requiring all COVID-vaccine eligible passengers to show proof of vaccination. But in Florida, businesses, including cruise lines, requiring proof of vaccine is at odds with state law.

The travel insurance requirement applies to sailings departing from Florida Aug. 1 through Dec. 31 and all bookings after June 28. Proof of travel insurance for unvaccinated passengers must be shown at check-in. 

As part of the requirement, passengers are allowed to purchase travel insurance from a company of their choosing as long as it covers a minimum of $25,000 per person in medical expenses and $50,000 per person in travel expenses. Or Royal Caribbean is also offering a Travel Protection Program package that runs between $39 and $1,000 depending on the cost of the cruise.

Royal Caribbean is "strongly" recommending that eligible passengers be fully vaccinated when traveling from Florida, Sierra-Caro told USA TODAY Tuesday. "Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols at their own expense."

The added Florida requirement comes on the heels two unvaccinated passengers under age 16 tested positive for COVID on board the cruise line's Adventure of the Seas ship and after sister line Celebrity Cruises also had two vaccinated passengers test positive on its ship, Celebrity Millennium, earlier this month. 

The cruise line is still carrying out test cruises to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's cruise guidance as it doesn't expect to meet the health agency's threshold of 95% for vaccinated passengers in order to bypass that step.

"As a family brand, Royal Caribbean typically sees that children under the age of 12 make up 10% of our guests onboard and today, they are ineligible for the vaccine," Sierra-Caro said. "Which is why we elected to conduct simulation cruises, per the CDC’s two pathways they laid out, to test health and safety protocols since we expect to return to sailing with less than 95% fully vaccinated guests."

The cruise line's first test cruise departed June 20 and that ship, the Freedom of the Seas, was approved Tuesday to carry paying passengers.