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Just this week, sister brands American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) and Victory Cruise Lines announced that they will begin requiring all passengers and crew to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for sailings starting in July.
It was further stated by the parent company that this health measure will be in addition to previously revealed mandates for coronavirus testing and masks when physical distancing is not possible. These existing protocols will remain in effect until Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changes its recommendations.
Already, the travel advisor and client reaction in the cruise community is mixed.
“Personally, I feel it’s a good idea,” said Ronald E. Oster, III, president of Arizona-based Rawhide Travel and Tours, Incorporated. “It might convince reluctant passengers — who are thinking about taking a cruise, but are concerned about catching the virus onboard — to feel safer. However, in cutting people out who have decided to not get the vaccine, this will eliminate thousands of potential cruisers.”
Specifically, he mentioned hearing a statistic of about 40% of the population saying they have no plans to get vaccinated for the novel coronavirus, and he wonders if a policy requiring it is a good idea.
It might convince reluctant passengers — who are thinking about taking a cruise, but are concerned about catching the virus onboard — to feel safer.
Meanwhile, Margaret D. Jones, owner of A-1 Tuscany Travel in California, thinks the decision is a little harsh.
“Clients will not be happy because they are being forced to do something,” she said. “Many are not comfortable getting the vaccine. All they want to do is have a good vacation.”
At 87 years old — having never had the flu or the shot against it — Jones indicated that she probably will not get the vaccine for fear of a potential adverse reaction.
Oster just put together a group cruise in October for 50 people, about half of whom said they will not go if the vaccine is required. He said this is the reason he did not book them on AQSC.
Still, he believes it’s just a matter of time before more cruise lines follow suit in requiring vaccination of their passengers and that guests will get used to it.
“Like wearing a mask, people will adapt,” he said. “Everyone a year ago was anti-mask. Today, a person wouldn’t dare enter any business without wearing one. They will adapt but with much protest at first.”
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Oster anticipates it will affect his business in the meantime though.
“It will harm me, especially from the response I’ve had so far,” he said. “People are just getting used to wearing a mask and social distancing. To now force them to be vaccinated, there’s going to be a fight.”
People are just getting used to wearing a mask and social distancing. To now force them to be vaccinated, there’s going to be a fight.
It’s certainly a concern for Jones as well, but she said she’s more upset about inaccurate media reporting and the resulting fear mongering.
“I feel our industry has borne the brunt of so much misinformation,” she said. “While I respect the need to caution, I always have care, concern and compassion for my clients. They are No. 1. I have been here to take care of cancellations, refunds and rebooking with priority.”
Regardless of the vaccine and other travel requirements, she personally predicts that it won’t be until the third quarter of 2021 before cruising begins to resume.
As it stands now, AQSC is targeting an April return while most ocean lines are looking to May and beyond, at least from the U.S.