Bayonne updates agreement with Royal Caribbean regarding vaccination policy

Those age 12 and older must now be fully vaccinated to board a cruise

The Anthem of the Seas docks in Bayonne in February of 2020. Photo by Daniel Israel
The Anthem of the Seas docks in Bayonne in February of 2020. Photo by Daniel Israel

Bayonne has modified its agreement with Royal Caribbean International regarding the cruise line’s vaccination policy.

Currently, the Oasis of the Seas and the Anthem of the Seas are the two Royal Caribbean ships that regularly sail out of the Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne. However, only the Anthem of the Seas was included in the original agreement.

At its November meeting, the City Council approved a resolution updating the memorandum of agreement between the city, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Royal Caribbean, to include another ship in the agreement and to lower the vaccination age requirement for all passengers.

Law Director Jay Coffey told the Bayonne Community News that the resolution will require that both of the ships operating out of the city be included in the agreement. Additionally, the resolution lowers the vaccination requirement in the agreement to cover all passengers age 12 and up.

“[Royal Caribbean] was changing their protocols,” Coffey said. “They used to require anyone age 18 and over to be vaccinated. They changed their protocols to over the age of 12, in order to travel, you have to be vaccinated.”

Controlling health regulations

Coffey said the initial agreement was signed to allow Bayonne to assist Royal Caribbean in implementing COVID-19 health protocols. According to the resolution, the agreement aims to ensure the cruise line’s port and cruise operations are compliant with virus mitigation guidelines.

“There’s an agreement between Royal Caribbean and the city that when they dock, they become subject to our health officer’s ability to control the situation,” Coffey said. “If there’s a situation that requires the health officer to interpose herself, then this is the agreement that says: ‘This is what we are requiring.’”

In a generalized example, Coffey said that if there was an unvaccinated passenger attempting to board, the city would assist Royal Caribbean in preventing that passenger from boarding the ship. Health Officer Michele O’Reilly would intervene on behalf of the city in the interest of the public health.

“Everybody over the age of 12 is to be vaccinated,” Coffey said. “So she would have the authority to say that person can’t board the ship. All it is, is Royal Caribbean acknowledging our control over health regulations that we can help them implement. It’s really just two simple changes: adding the new ship to the coverage, it’s going to dock out of here; and then changing their rules from over the age of 18 to over the age of 12.”

The road back to normalcy

The lowering of the vaccination age requirement coincides with the emergency use authorization of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Pfizer vaccine for those age 5 to 11 at the end of October of this year. While the amended Royal Caribbean vaccine requirement does not yet extend to this age group, the agreement can and will likely be amended again to do so in the future, according to the resolution.

The council voted unanimously to approve the resolution amending the agreement, which was first signed in May of this year. However, Royal Caribbean only recently began sailing out of Bayonne again this September.

It appears the city is staying on top of the cruise line when it comes to virus prevention, not forgetting the false alarm that scared the city when the Anthem of the Seas docked in Bayonne in February of 2020, carrying what would have been the first cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey if the sick passengers tested positive. In the end, they all tested negative and crisis was averted temporarily for a month until March, when the pandemic exploded.

Now, things continue to return to some sense of normalcy as the vaccine and booster shots are widely available to the public. The amended vaccine policy is just another step in that direction as more age groups become eligible for the jab, that is, if the Omicron variant doesn’t set everything back.

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