Despite implications by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that a new state law would prevent it, Carnival Cruise Line still plans to require passengers to prove they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 before sailing from the Port of Galveston in July.
In guidance about the cruises issued Tuesday, the company notified guests they’d have to be fully vaccinated against COVID at least 14 days before their departure and provide proof of vaccinations.
Carnival also said most children younger than 12 won’t be allowed on the ships because COVID vaccines haven’t been approved for them. The company on Wednesday said there would be limited exceptions and that a few unvaccinated people could be allowed on Galveston ships.
Carnival’s decision runs counter to Abbott’s statements Monday when he signed a new law preventing Texas businesses from asking customers for so-called vaccine passports. Abbott specifically mentioned Carnival’s vaccination policy as something the new law would stop.
But whether that’s true is unclear.
In a statement Monday, Carnival said it believed the company might fall into a loophole in the new law allowing businesses to require vaccine passports if a company is following federal health requirements.
Carnival and other cruise lines are subject to health rules laid out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and have been working with that agency in an attempt to return to business for the first time since March 2020.
It’s also unclear whether penalties laid out in the new law would be of any consequence to Carnival. The law states companies that require vaccine passports are prohibited from receiving state grants or contracts and might be barred from receiving licenses or permits from state agencies.
The Port of Galveston has been in touch with the governor’s office about Carnival’s stance since Monday, Port Director Rodger Rees said. Rees believed the governor’s office understood and accepted Carnival’s position on vaccination, he said.
“They verified what our understanding is,” Rees said Wednesday.
Abbott’s office didn’t respond Tuesday or Wednesday to questions about Carnival’s continued plans for Galveston cruises or whether the company would face any consequences if it continues to move forward with its sailings.
The new details from Carnival also provided more insight into what being on the first returned cruises will be like for passengers.
People boarding ships in Galveston will be asked to confirm their vaccination status when they arrive at the ship and be asked to provide proof of being vaccinated. People who don’t show proof when they’re at the cruise terminal will be stopped from boarding, and they won’t be given a refund for their missed trip, Carnival said.
Vaccinated guests on the cruises won’t be required to wear masks or practice social distancing while on board, the company said. To meet the standard set by the CDC, at least 95 percent of passengers will be vaccinated, the company said.
Passengers might have to follow different rules when they disembark in other countries. The Carnival Vista, which is set to sail from Galveston on July 3, is scheduled to go to Honduras, Belize and Mexico.
Carnival is giving passengers scheduled to go on a July cruise until June 14 to decide whether they want to cancel or reschedule their trips.