American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) and Victory Cruise Lines (VCL), part of the Hornblower Group, have announced a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all overnight guests that will go into effect for all sailings beginning July 1, 2021. The vaccination requirement also will apply to shipboard crew members, non-shipboard employees across all seven vessels in the AQSC and VCL fleets and shore excursion drivers.
"The health and safety of our guests, crew members and partners continues to remain our top priority," says John Waggoner, CEO and founder of American Queen Steamboat Company. "Vaccination requirement for both our guests and crew is the most prudent next step to ensure that we are providing the safest cruising experience possible."
April Through June
In a Q&A for guests, the line said: "While we are confident in the measures we have taken for itineraries operating from April through June, the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate [for voyages July 1 and thereafter] will further ensure the wellbeing of the individuals who overnight on our vessels."
Also in that Q&A, the line added: "To date, we have received strong interest for our April through June itineraries from guests who are confident in our current measures. Additionally, a good number of these guests will have had access to the vaccine prior. This, combined with our belief that crew will be vaccinated per the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)] recommendation Phase 1c vaccination rollout includes maritime transportation workers, further ensures our confidence to cruise safely."
While the timing for the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility varies from state to state, the company said: "The majority of our guests represent the 65-plus population, who are eligible now or will soon be eligible to receive the vaccination. If a guest is not able to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine prior to their scheduled trip, we will rebook them for a future sailing at no charge."
In terms of the vaccine, the company says that if the vaccine that guests and/or crew members are administered requires two doses, they'll be required to have received both doses before embarking. Guests who are unable to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine prior to their scheduled trip, or who have no intention of receiving the vaccine, should contact their travel advisor or the companies' reservations department.
While boarding, all guests will be required to present verified documentation of vaccination. Crew members will also be required to present vaccination documentation, either at the time of hiring or boarding a vessel.
One caveat? The new vaccination requirement will apply to "overnight" guests and onboard crew, but not for people boarding the vessels but not staying overnight. While those people will undergo the other mandated health and safety protocols, vaccination will not be required.
This vaccination requirement will expand the enhanced health and safety measures that both lines announced in 2020; those protocols include such elements as pre-cruise COVID-19 testing of all guests and crew and mask mandate in all public areas where social distancing is not possible.
Those protocols will remain in effect after July 1, 2021 as well—even with the vaccination requirement. AQSC and VCL will continue to work with health advisors, including a partnership with VIKAND Medical Solutions, and under the discretion of the CDC about evolving guidelines to protect guests, crew and the communities visited by the lines' vessels.
The mandatory vaccination requirement will be in effect for all itineraries beginning July 1, 2021, and thereafter. Based on current CDC recommendation that Phase 1c of the vaccination allocation includes essential workers engaged in transportation, the lines say that vaccinations should be readily be available and able to be administered to crew members before the July 1 target date.
For the planned resumption of service in April, AQSC and Victory are working with the CDC, Food & Drug Administration and U.S. Coast Guard with ongoing communications and compliance to safely resume operations.
For additional information, visit www.americanqueensteamboatcompany.com.