(10 a.m. EST) -- American Queen Steamboat Company and its sister company Victory Cruise Lines will become the first North American cruise operators to require all passengers to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition for setting sail, beginning July 1, 2021.
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required for all crewmembers, passengers and all non-shipboard employees across all seven vessels in the AQSC and Victory fleets. The initiative will be part of the company's overall health and safety protocols that the company says will include, and will not be limited to, pre-cruise COVID-19 PCR testing and mask mandates in all public areas where social distancing is not possible.
On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention announced face masks would be mandatory for all passengers on ships and in cruise terminals within the United States.
"The health and safety of our guests, crew members and partners continues to remain our top priority," said 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. Our new vaccination requirement, coupled with comprehensive health and safety protocols and risk-free booking policy, will give our loyal guests another added level of assurance to join us as we return to sailing."
Waggoner notes that current CDC guidelines recommend all essential workers engaged in transportation, including shipboard crew members, should be able to be vaccinated by the July 1 deadline.
Passengers who are unable to receive both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine before their scheduled trips, or those who have no intention of receiving the vaccine, are requested to contact the reservations team with AQSC or Victory Cruise Lines.
In late January, U.K.-based cruise line Saga became the first cruise operator in the world to make proof of COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for all passengers setting sail with the line.