Recently, multiple cruise lines added some specifications to their vaccination policies outlining that travellers who received mixed vaccine doses wouldn’t qualify as fully vaccinated and in doing so impacted a great number of Canadians.
At the heart of the issue is AstraZeneca specifically as some policies indicate that they would approve two different mRNA vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — but not one dose of the vector vaccine with one dose of an mRNA vaccine.
When asked about the update, a Princess Cruises spokesperson noted that the details were added because of questions on mixed vaccinations and its policy reflects the US CDC requirements.
“The US policy remains unchanged that ‘fully vaccinated’ means completing all required dose of a COVID-19 series. By series, the US CDC is referring to the same type of vaccine (mRNA, vector, etc.),” the email reads. “In the Canadian examples, we’re seeing guests receive one dose of AZ (vector) and one dose of Pfizer or Moderna (mRNA). The US CDC does not accept that as fully vaccinated.”
However, the US CDC will recognize someone who received one dose of AstraZeneca combined with two doses of an mRNA vaccine — whether it’s the same or not — raising the question: do those who want to cruise now need a third vaccination?
“I do trust that the CDC and WHO will eventually see the results of the mixed vaccines and allow for our Canadians to travel without a third shot,” Marion Rose, the President of Elgin Travel & Cruises TravelPlus, who is also speaking on behalf of her cruise specialist and fellow advisors on the team, tells Travel Courier. “The unknowns as we continue to rebook our cruise passengers and encourage cruising are certainly troubling. With several of the cruise lines just beginning their sailings from the U.S. waters, we are in a wait-and-see situation. Our loyal cruisers are anxious to confirm, however, we are responsible for so many variables as they unfold.”
Muddling things even more is that many policies don’t specifically outline whether or not mixed doses are accepted.
“This is a bit troubling. Canadians responded to the vaccination campaign in droves to help us all, but didn’t have any idea that their decision might impact their future ability to travel,” says a B.C.-based agent who prefers to remain anonymous. “Saying that, I hope that science shows that mixed vaccines are effective and the CDC and cruise lines respond accordingly at that time… Quite a portion of the public did accept mixed vaccines.”
For the agents involved in making the bookings, Rose says the entire process has become much more challenging and complex.
“Booking travel now to each respective port is complicated and our work is threefold and we’re still unsure of business moving forward. We must be charging our worth for these added complications and counselling,” she says. “Each destination has various Passenger Information Forms that require completion. Many cannot be done until 72 hours prior to travel. Clients are expecting us to be informed on the constant changes and it is exhausting.”
Over at Virgin Voyages, all passengers embarking on the cruise line’s Summer Soiree Sailings in the UK must be vaccinated in order to travel and they are in the process of advocating for the same policies and health standards when launching in North America this fall, as recommended by the CDC.
“Virgin Voyages is constantly monitoring developments and following guidelines set forth by health officials. Our Voyage Well initiatives were designed to not only comply with, but to also exceed UK and US CDC requirements. Mixed doses may be acceptable depending on what vaccines were administered, but would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis for each individual Sailor,” a Virgin Voyages spokesperson said responding to a Travel Courier query. “We know that vaccinating as much of the world’s population is the ultimate goal in overcoming COVID-19 and we believe that rising tides raise all ships. Vaccinating our Crew and encouraging Sailors to get vaccinated are proven steps in mitigating the risks of COVID-19. It’s a collective effort across the maritime and cruise industry, globally.”