MIAMI — Royal Caribbean is the first cruise line out of the gate to be given the green light from the CDC to operate test cruises ahead of regular revenue sailings.
The company had submitted a proposal to the CDC to sail a test cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas from PortMiami and received approval just two business days later. The cruise will sail with volunteer passengers on June 20-22, 2021.
Last month, the CDC updated its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) to include simulated voyages that allow crew to test out new COVID-19 protocols onboard and in port. They must carry at least 10% of the total passenger capacity permitted by visited ports and are required for ships that are not guaranteeing the full vaccination of the majority of passengers and crew onboard, prior to the start of revenue cruises.
Volunteer passengers must be 18 years old or older and agree to be tested for COVID-19. Those who aren’t vaccinated must attest they are not at high risk of severe COVID-19. If 1.5% of passengers or 1.5% of crew members contract COVID-19, test cruises must come to an end.
According to Royal Caribbean International spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Caro, those interested in volunteering for the test cruise can visit the company’s Volunteers of the Seas page on Facebook. The page’s latest post states that over 250,000 have already volunteered to participate in the company’s return to sailing efforts.
“Your encouragement and unwavering confidence in us over the last 15 months have contributed to the collective effort of bringing cruising back,” said the Facebook post. “There are logistics to figure out and we will share details once they have been worked through. We look forward to having Volunteers of the Seas be part of the Royal comeback this summer.”
Royal Caribbean’s operations have been paused since last March, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, it announced its resumption of operations in non-U.S. waters, with seven-night cruise getaways out of Nassau and Bermuda. And just yesterday, news broke that the cruise line will be resuming cruises to Alaska from Seattle, following the signing of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act By U.S. President Biden.
Royal Caribbean as well as Celebrity Cruises, both part of the Royal Caribbean Group, will be requiring all passengers 16 years old or older to provide proof of vaccination when boarding. Starting Aug. 1, the age minimum will go down to 12 years old or older.