Disney is first cruise line to require Covid-19 vaccinations for children 5 and older

The policy applies to all sailings departing on or after Jan 13. PHOTO: DISNEYCRUISELINE/INSTAGRAM

MIAMI (BLOOMBERG) - The days of bringing unvaccinated kids aboard a cruise are winding down. On Wednesday (Nov 17), Disney Cruise Line became the first cruise company to introduce a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for passengers five years old and up.

The policy applies to all sailings departing on or after Jan 13. Until then, the existing rules - which require children to show a negative polymerase chain reaction test taken before departure - will continue to apply.

Under the current restrictions, anyone turning 12 within five weeks of departure dates is given leeway, and it is expected that similar provisions will apply to five-year-olds celebrating recent birthdays.

Though cruise lines generally require vaccination for any eligible guest, with unvaccinated people subject to restrictions, no major cruise line has indicated plans to follow Disney's lead.

Only one company, Carnival Corp, initially responded to requests for comment, saying that a decision to expand the vaccine mandates to include five- to 11-year-olds would be left up to executives at each of its nine individual cruise lines.

Hours after Disney's announcement, a Norwegian Cruise Line spokesman confirmed that it would extend its current policy of allowing only vaccinated guests aboard, with no provision for testing. Up till now, children were not able to sail.

"Given the recent health updates regarding the expansion of the age criteria to receive the vaccination, we look forward to welcoming these younger guests back on board soon," the spokesman said.

Pfizer's vaccine was approved by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention for use in five- to 11-year-olds on Nov 2.

Mr Richard Fain, chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean, has been a vocal supporter of vaccine mandates and has said at media events that he expects to require jabs for all customers as they become eligible. No plans, however, have been put into place to expand the company's current policies, which currently cover those aged 12 and up.

"Disney Cruise Line's new vaccination mandate for kids is likely to boost consumer confidence from the family segment, which has been largely reluctant to return to cruising post-pandemic," said Ms Lebawit Lily Girma, global tourism reporter at Skift, a travel industry trade publication. "It's likely other cruise lines will follow as cruises plan to resume operations and sailing at larger capacities in 2022."

It remains to be seen how the widened mandate will affect Disney Cruise Line's operations, including allowing the reopening of popular amenities such as its kids' clubs, which are still closed in accordance with Covid-19 protocols.

For guests who prefer not to comply with the new rules, no-fee cancellations will be allowed until Dec 1.

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