Several days ago I wrote about how in light of the coronavirus outbreak, Royal Caribbean made the poorly thought out decision of banning anyone with a passport from China, Hong Kong, or Macau, from their cruises.
Why this policy was just plain wrong
Obviously the coronavirus situation is serious and all travel companies are taking precautionary measures, but this policy crossed the line. That’s because they were banning passport holders from the region regardless of where they lived.
If you have one of those passports but are a permanent resident in another country and haven’t even been to Greater China in the past decade, you still wouldn’t be allowed on one of their ships? That was unjustifiable, and the company claimed that the policy was “in alignment with CDC policies,” which simply isn’t true.
At no point did the CDC suggest that people should be restricted due to their national origin or passport.
A real life example of why this was a problem
Just to give an example of why this was such an issue, let me give the example of an email I received after my initial post:
I have a cruise with Royal Caribbean booked for me and 9 of my family members leaving in 9 days and just found out yesterday that one of them can’t go because she has a Chinese passport. She hasn’t been to China in over 3 years but apparently that doesn’t matter. Our family vacation is now turned upside down as we don’t want to leave her behind.
Unfortunately when I called to see if we can cancel the cruise for all of us I was told that only she will get a refund and the rest of us are out of luck and will lose 100% of our payment if we cancel. I am surprised at such a stringent policy and shocked at their lack of willingness to accommodate the travelers affected by the ban.
On top of that, many of us are uncomfortable going on the cruise due to the fact that we are Asian. We are no different than the person banned other than our US passport. I have a hard time believing we won’t be scrutinized or treated differently on the cruise seeing as how they were willing to ban an entire group of people based on their passport alone.
Well, Royal Caribbean has come to their senses…
Royal Caribbean backtracks on their policy
As Royal Caribbean has communicated to guests:
Over the last few weeks, governments around the world have been restricting travel for Chinese, Hong Kong, and Macau passport holders – often times with little advance notice. As a result of these restrictions, last week we decided to add a similar policy to our travel regulation, to avoid disruption to impacted guests’ vacations.
Now that governmental restrictions have been clarified, we have made a change to our travel regulation. We’re happy to share that effective immediately, passport holders from China, Hong Kong, and Macau will be able to sail with us.
I’m happy to see this reversed.
I’m still conflicted about whether they deserve the benefit of the doubt on this or not.
I could be missing something, but I’m not aware of any governments that were restricting travel to passport holders of China, Hong Kong, and Macau, assuming they don’t actually live there. All of the restrictions I saw were based on recently having been to China.
They made their decisions based on “restrictions” that didn’t exist, best I can tell. For a company the size of Royal Caribbean to make that mistake sure makes you wonder…
For those who canceled their reservation as a result of the (flawed) policy, Royal Caribbean is offering to reinstate reservations.
Policies that Royal Caribbean is maintaining
While they’re changing the passport requirement, Royal Caribbean is maintaining the following policies:
We will deny boarding to any guest or crewmember, regardless of nationality, if they’ve:
- Traveled from, to, or through mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau less than 15 days prior to their sailing.
- Been in contact (which the CDC defines as 6 feet or 2 meters) with someone that has traveled from, to, or through mainland China, Hong Kong, or Macau less than 15 days prior to their sailing.
That second bullet point is an interesting one. I would guess that many (most?) people who traveled to a cruise port through a major international airport were within six feet of someone who has been to China in the past 15 days, probably without knowing it…
I understand they’re probably adding that restriction to cover their rear, though talk about a policy that’s unenforceable, since in our day-to-day lives it’s not like we know where people around us have been.
For that matter, if someone wanted to cancel a cruise for whatever reason, perhaps this is an easy out? “Well, I was within six feet of someone who has been to China at the airport, so…”
I’m happy to see that Royal Caribbean backtracked on this policy. Banning passport holders with no regard for where they live was just plain wrong.
Now the restrictions are all based around whether you’ve been to China in the past 15 days, or have been around someone who has been to China in the past 15 days (with the latter being more challenging to enforce).