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Two U.S. cruise lines announce Covid vaccination mandate for guests, crew

American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines said a vaccination is required for all sailings beginning July 1, 2021.
Image: American Queen steamboat
The American Queen steamboat docked on the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn., on Sept. 16, 2019.Adrian Sainz / AP file

Two U.S. cruise line companies announced all passengers and crew must get the Covid-19 vaccine in order to sail.

American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines both issued "SafeCruise" guidance that states a vaccination is required for all sailings beginning July 1, 2021.

The cruise lines, both part of the Hornblower Group, said the mandate "will further ensure the wellbeing of the individuals who overnight on our vessels."

"Additionally, protecting the communities we visit on each itinerary is also a priority as the vaccine requirement will help provide an additional safety measure that we are mandating to safeguard these communities," the companies said.

American Queen Steamboat Company offers multiday river cruises in the U.S. such as the Columbia and Snake Rivers and the Mississippi. Victory Cruise Lines sails around the Great Lakes and offers trips to Canada, The Bahamas, Alaska and Mexico.

If a vaccine requires two shots — such as Moderna and Pfizer — guests and crew will need to have received both doses prior to boarding. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine would only require one dose.

The cruise lines said because most of their passengers are over the age of 65, they should be eligible to receive the vaccine before the July 1 mandate.

"Vaccination requirements for both our guests and crew is the most prudent next step to ensure that we are providing the safest cruising experience possible,” John Waggoner, CEO and founder of American Queen Steamboat Company, told Condé Nast Traveler.

Passengers will have to present verified documentation that they have been fully vaccinated before they are allowed on the ship. Crew members will be required to show proof either at the time they are hired or prior to embarking on a trip.

Cruises were halted after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a no-sail order in the country. The order was lifted at the end of October.

American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines are set to resume sailing beginning in April with a number of safety protocols in place including pre-boarding testing, a mask requirement in public spaces and temperature checks.

The companies said these safety measures will continue after its vaccination requirement.

Some major cruise lines are still weighing their options. Norwegian Cruise Line said in a statement Friday that it plans to require all crew members to be vaccinated and are exploring options for guests.

“We continue to closely monitor the evolving impacts of the Covid-19 global pandemic and vaccine developments," a spokesperson for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said.

"We will continue to partner with global and domestic authorities and the Healthy Sail Panel, our team of leading expert advisors, to explore all options necessary to protect guests, crew and the communities visited. We will share additional updates as they are available.”

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said in a January interview that the Healthy Sail Panel will advise them if vaccinations should be required for guests.

"Are we going to require it? Are we just going to use it as an adjunct? I think all of that is going to come out reasonably soon," he said.

Carnival Cruise Line said while it believes the vaccines "will greatly benefit cruising and travel," it has not made any final decisions.