Two cruise lines in the Royal Caribbean Group have ended the mandatory mask-wearing policy for crew members, demonstrating one more step toward pre-pandemic operations and a welcome improvement to the comfort of crew members who have remained masked for two years.
Crew No Long Required to Wear Masks
Crew members aboard ships within Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises are no longer required to wear masks, according to a statement the cruise lines released on October 3, 2022, to their team members.
“We are happy to announce that from today masks are optional for crew. If you are willing to wear mask, it should be with the company’s logo. This is a huge step towards our return to normal life. The decision to wear a mask is up to every crew member,” the statement read.
This new policy applies to all areas onboard each ship, including both indoor and outdoor locations. Crew members may now choose not to wear masks both in crew-only spaces as well as public areas and guest spaces such as lounges, restaurants, staterooms, and corridors.
It should be noted that crew members are not required to remove their masks, but they may choose to do so if they wish. Crew members who prefer to continue wearing a mask are welcome to do so, just as the policy for both cruise lines permits passengers to choose whether or not to wear a mask.
Several weeks ago, Celebrity Cruises piloted a select program permitting crew members to forgo masks as the cruise line tested whether onboard protocols continued to be effective without mask-wearing.
That limited test was a success, as masks have now been made optional fleetwide for all crew members aboard Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises vessels.
Silversea Cruises Still Requires Masks
While both these cruise lines have now removed the mask mandate for crew members, it should be noted that the third cruise line owned and operated by Royal Caribbean Group still mandates that all crew members wear masks.
Silversea Cruises’ “Healthy Return to Sailing” webpage outlines the current mask policy, which includes “Staff and Crew aboard all our ships will continue to wear masks for the foreseeable future.”
While Silversea Cruises is part of the Royal Caribbean Group, each cruise line can have distinct policies and protocols to meet the unique needs of its guests, crew members, and port destinations.
Because Silversea is a luxury, small-ship line – the largest vessel in the line’s fleet, Silver Muse, only accommodates 596 guests – they choose to be more cautious with their protocols.
The more restrictive protocols are also likely a result of the cruise line’s more exotic itineraries, visiting ports of call that may be less equipped to handle potential disease outbreaks, and therefore require more stringent health and safety measures.
Will Other Cruise Lines Follow?
As more and more cruise destinations have eased requirements for travelers in recent weeks, it is likely that more cruise lines will ease onboard crew protocols as well, as those protocols will no longer be necessary to meet destinations’ requirements for port visits.
Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, has removed all its pandemic-related restrictions for cruise guests from October 4, 2022, and while there is no word on how crew restrictions may or may not be impacted, that would be a logical next step.
Many cruise travelers are eager to see these restrictions made optional for crew members, as the smiling faces of exceptional team members is a welcome sight on any cruise vacation.
As with passenger protocols, however, it is wise that cruise lines may keep option mask wearing available, and both guests and crew members can choose what safety measures they are most comfortable with.
Furthermore, cruise lines reserve the right to re-implement the mandatory mask-wearing policy should it become necessary in the future.
Original posted at www.cruisehive.com