The UK travel company Saga Cruises has become the first cruise line to announce that it is requiring all passengers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to sail on its cruise ships. While there have been rumors that the cruise industry might require vaccinations, Saga’s announcement makes them the first of the ocean-going cruise lines to establish the policy.
“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,” Saga wrote in a message to its passengers. “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 guests must be fully vaccinated against COVID?19.”
To allow travelers sufficient time to be fully vaccinated, Saga announced that it was also delaying its first cruise. The line had planned to start sailing on April 3 aboard its ship the Spirit of Discovery. The new plan is for the sister ship the Spirit of Adventure to be the first to sail with the ship’s inaugural voyage on May 4. The 58,250 gross ton cruise ship was built by Meyer Werft and delivered to Saga at the end of September 2020. The Spirit of Discovery is now scheduled to resume sailing on June 2.
The company is offering passengers currently booked on cruises the opportunity to reschedule if they do not believe they can complete their vaccinations before their scheduled cruise. The company noted that it has made the decision not to allow a guest to travel if they choose not to receive the vaccine. Detailing their decision, they noted that the majority of their guests “fall into the at-risk age bracket and our priority is their safety and wellbeing.” Saga markets itself as an adult-only product requiring travelers to be over the age of 50 to cruise, although companions in their 40s are also accepted.
As part of the new program, guests must have received their full two doses of the COVID?19 vaccination at least 14 days before traveling. Saga also is telling all passengers that they will be required to bring the vaccination document and/or evidence with proof of vaccination at the time of boarding. No exceptions will be granted.
“Our focus in the first instance is on our guests and ensuring all of them have been vaccinated,” Saga writes in its Q&A for passengers. “We have comprehensive COVID?19 protocols in place to protect our crew, including quarantine and regular testing, and as soon as crew can be vaccinated, they will be.”
In addition to also maintaining its health protocols, Saga is also highlighting to travelers that all of its cruises sail and return to the UK and that they offer private transportation to and from the ships.
Many observers have speculated that wide availability of the vaccine will be a key element in helping the cruise industry to restore its operations. Some of the industry executives have speculated about requirements for vaccines or programs to vaccinate all of the crew aboard a ship before sailing.
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