Yesterday, Carnival Cruise Line executive Christine Duffy stated that her cruise line doesn’t plan to require COVID-19 vaccination for guests. The comments were made during a television interview with NBC’s Lester Holt and were first reported on Seatrade Cruise News.

Ms. Duffy defended Carnival’s absence of a vaccine requirement for passengers, commenting “There’s no mandate for any other business to have that requirement.” The CDC has indicated that cruise ships can resume sailing without first conducting simulated test cruises provided that 98 percent of crew members and 95 percent of passengers are fully vaccinated (and the companies satisfy the other conditional sailing requirements).

Ms. Duffy also stated that “. . . I think that’s where we have the challenge of working through the details because, for our cruise line, children under 12 are a big part of the cruise experience in a summer, you know a family vacation, and as it stands right now, we wouldn’t be able to have kids under 12 on board.”

Readers of Cruise Law News’ Facebook page expressed feelings ranging from surprise to confusion to disappointment over the Carnival Cruise Line president’s comments. Most cruise lines, including Carnival’s rivals in Miami like Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean / Celebrity Cruises, have announced that they will require passengers to be fully vaccinated (Travel & Leisure and The Points Guy have excellent summaries of all cruise lines which require vaccinations at this point).

Here are a few of the comments posted on our Facebook page regarding Carnival’s no-vaccine requirement.

  • “Is this mandatory for crew and, if so, why different for paying passengers? Or is this rather a decision to generate much needed revenue for Carnival?
  • Having no vaccine at all with a virus that can change so rapidly in a cruise ship environment is surely a potential for serious consequences.
  • So … instead CCL is willing to chance infections and shut down be cause of a few….. guests! SAD
  • A very bad decision and huge gamble by Carnival.
  • Carnival just threw themselves to the bottom of the heap. Actually, this is great for all the anti-vaxxers: gives them ships to cruise on. This way, they can’t complain the cruising industry shut them out. Meanwhile, we will sail on the other cruise lines that require vaccinations for everyone.
  • This is such silly and blatant pandering to the MAGA and antivaxers. Carnival knows their flagship brand passengers and they know the median bargain hunters aren’t always the most educated.”

There was also a fair amount of criticism on Twitter of Carnival’s no required vaccine policy for guests and Ms. Duffy’s claim that no other businesses have such a mandate:

The first nine months of the pandemic demonstrated that many cruise fans believed that COVID-19 was a hoax or greatly exaggerated and would eventually disappear. Many of these types still do not believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is real despite over 587,000 dead and almost 33,000,000 positive COVID-19 cases in the U.S. (not to mention over 163,000,000 cases and 3,400,000 dead around the world due to COVID-19) per the John Hopkin’s Coronavirus Resources Center.

Although I am not aware of data specifically addressing this issue, my hunch is that Carnival Cruise Line has the most customers who are COVID-19 deniers or fall within the anti-science or anti-vaxxer crowd.

Carnival Cruise Line has obviously made the business decision to cater to its customers and not follow the 100-percent-of-our-customers-must-be-vaccinated policy à la NCL.

Ms. Duffy also said during the brief NBC News interview that Carnival is trying to resume operations in July and is currently continuing its discussions with the CDC toward that goal. It remains to be seen how Carnival expects to restart cruises (without having test cruises) if it cannot verify that at least 95% of its passengers are fully vaccinated.

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Photo credits: NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt