By CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Saga Cruises, a U.K.-based cruise operator, announced it was requiring all passengers to have received the COVID-19 vaccine before embarking on a trip.
The cruise industry as a whole has grappled with multiple deadly outbreaks of the virus aboard ships since February 2020, and many cruise liners were forced to halt operations entirely amid the pandemic.
Saga Cruises’ vaccine requirement appears to be a first for major cruise operators. The company said it is moving the restart date for its cruises to May to allow time for more people to receive the vaccine.
“The health and safety of our customers has always been our number one priority at Saga, so we have taken the decision to require everyone traveling with us to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” a Saga spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Thursday. “Our customers want the reassurance of the vaccine and to know others traveling with them will be vaccinated too.”
“Our new vaccination policy will be in addition to the detailed arrangements we have already put in place for when cruises and other holidays restart,” the spokesperson added.
The company said it has already written to customers intending on traveling in 2021 informing them of the new vaccination policy, which requires them to be fully vaccinated against the virus at least 14 days before travel.
In addition to the vaccine requirement, Saga said it will require pre-departure COVID-19 testing, have reduced capacity of customers onboard, enhanced cleaning regimes and has doubled its medical staff, among other precautions.
Early last year, more than 700 people contracted COVID-19 aboard the Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess ship, making it one of the first major outbreaks of the disease outside of China.
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