A Toronto travel agent who has been urging cruise companies to accept clients with mixed coronavirus vaccinations as being fully vaccinated says a new decision by Royal Caribbean brand companies amounts to “a game-changer” for Canadian agents.
Pat Probert of Bob Family Travel has been calling on cruise companies that didn’t recognize would-be passengers with mixed vaccinations as being vaccinated to reverse their stance.
“It is a win-win-win for everyone, the clients, the company and the agents in Canada,” Probert said of the Royal Caribbean Group’s updated stance on mixed vaccines.
However, travel advisor Dennis Hillier is quick to point out that only mixed mRNA vaccines are recognized for US sailings and the policy has a lot of stipulations that still hinder Canadian travellers.
“In addition, when mixed vaccines are accepted in port out of the US — your two shots cannot be more than 42 days to 12 weeks between shots,” he says. “This excludes most Canadians who were vaccinated more than three months between shots.”
Nino Montagnese, Vice President, Air Canada Vacations, noted that “travellers looking to book their next vacation are still facing several hurdles in the forms of global restrictions, ever-changing entry requirements and general uncertainty. This decision removes an obstacle for cruise lovers, bringing them one step closer to their dream getaway and bringing our industry one step closer to recovery.”
Similarly, Natalie Tanious, COO at TravelBrands is also applauding Royal Caribbean Group’s latest move.
“The acceptance of mixed vaccines is a huge relief to the travel industry and more specifically cruise guests,” she said. “This is an incredible inroad and the next milestone in restoring consumer confidence. We need to secure the future of cruising and ensuring that our mutual clients are heard. Here is to the beginning of a new era of cruising.”
Probert estimates he’s lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business because of policies that didn’t consider passengers with mixed doses as fully vaccinated — something that impacts a great number of Canadians.
Proving his point, Probert told cruise lines with such policies in place that “if the refusal to accept mixed vaccines is costing us this much money, think about all of the other agents in Canada that are losing money and you may not even be hearing from these agents as they are too disillusioned to deal with another blow to their business.”
Over the past few months, Probert and Bob Family Travel cruise expert Robert Pittelli actively lobbied for policy changes. They want agents to know they can be heard and make a difference in these matters.
In the latest instance, Probert said he worked his way up the chain of command with the Royal Caribbean Group, first dealing with his BDM, then the Canadian director and continuing on to the vice-president of sales for the Americas.
Finally, after getting a Sept. 17 email announcing Royal Caribbean Group’s decision to accept mixed doses, Probert felt like he won the lottery and went out to buy an actual ticket for a draw that night.
“Winning twice in one day would have been nice,” he said but he was happy to have “just won with his true partners for all agents and clients in Canada.”
Gregory Luciani President and CEO of TravelOnly praised their efforts.
“I truly believe they were all instrumental in pushing for a change in this policy denying Canadians the right to cruise who had mixed mRNA vaccines,” he said.