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Disney Cruise Line to require passengers sailing to Bahamas get COVID-19 vaccine

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Disney Cruise Line will start requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for U.S. passengers boarding ships to the Bahamas next month, the first time the company has issued such a mandate for ships sailing from domestic ports.

The U.S. has seen a flood of new vaccine mandates in recent days following the Food and Drug Administration giving its full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The agency's final clearance came Monday came amid a surge of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations spurred by the highly contagious Delta variant. More than 19,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 over the last month, and nearly 631,000 have died from the virus since the pandemic began. 

Starting September 3, 2021, passengers 12 and older must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before boarding any ship heading to the Bahamas, Disney announced on Tuesday. That includes Castaway Cay, Disney's private island, the company stated. The new rule is in place until November.

Children younger than 12 are exempt but will need to bring along proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken between five days and 24 hours before boarding, as well as a second test at the terminal, Disney said.

The new rules come after the Bahamas issued an emergency order earlier this month saying it would require all cruise passengers 12 and older to show proof of vaccination. 

Royal Caribbean updated its policy last week, requiring passengers 12 and older to be fully vaccinated for cruises departing from any U.S. port, with the mandate taking effect September 3 for cruises leaving Florida for the Bahamas. The cruise line had four vaccinated adults and two unvaccinated minors test positive for COVID-19 on a ship traveling from the Bahamas last month, USA Today reported.

MSC Cruises is also implementing a similar policy beginning September 3. 

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Carnival Cruise made a similar move on Sunday, announcing it would require that all passengers older than 12 be inoculated, expanding a prior policy that required at least 95% of all passengers and crew be vaccinated. The updated policy takes effect August 28 and exempts those with medical conditions that preclude vaccination.

Carnival faces multiple lawsuits stemming from outbreaks on its ships early last year, in which at least 10 people perished, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

More recently, Oklahoma resident Marilyn Tackett, 77, was among the 27 positive cases aboard the Carnival Vista, which left from Galveston, Texas, in late July. Tackett died this week of COVID-19, according to the Washington Post. The cruise line told the newspaper it was saddened to hear of Tackett's death but added that she "almost certainly did not contract COVID on our ship."

Following a federal judge's approval of a challenge by Norwegian Cruise Line of an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis banning vaccine mandates, cruise companies have more leeway to require proof of vaccination from passengers leaving from Florida. The Republican governor is appealing the decision to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court. For now, Norwegian Cruise Line is requiring all passengers be fully vaccinated.

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