It’s been a week of positive news for the cruise industry. Just a few days after applying, Royal Caribbean has gained approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to go ahead with its test cruises in late June from Miami.
CDC Requirements to Restart Cruises
The CDC says that cruise ships can only return if they either confirm 95% of passengers and 98% of the crew are vaccinated or go through an approval process with no-revenue trial sailings for each ship.
It seems that Royal Caribbean is taking the latter path, as they will be conducting simulated cruises with volunteer passengers starting on June 20th to test out its COVID-19 protocols. The cruises will depart from PortMiami on its Freedom of the Seas ship.
They are the first cruise company to gain approval by the CDC to move onto test cruises after having its port and local health agreements approved.
This will be the first ship to sail from a U.S. port since March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to cruise ships that have yet to gain approval to restart due to the CDCs ongoing no-sail order.
“CDC is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the CSO,” said agency spokesperson Caitlin Shockey in a statement.
“Over the past month, senior leadership from CDC have met multiple times a week with cruise line senior executives to discuss the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO). During these meetings, participants asked questions and discussed the fastest path back to sailing without compromising safety. CDC and the cruise industry agree that the industry has what it needs to move forward and no additional roadblocks exist for resuming sailing by mid-summer.”
How Do Test Cruises Work?
Test cruises are made up of volunteer passengers 18 years old or older who agree to be tested for COVID-19 and have their test results recorded after the cruise.
According to the CDC Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) guidance, cruises must operate with at least 10% of the normal passenger capacity permitted by the ports it will visit.
Cruises must be at least three days and two nights, and social distancing is required during meals, entertainment, and excursions.
All passengers must show proof of full vaccination or provide a statement attesting they’re not at high risk of developing a severe Covid infection.
Companies have to end a test cruise if 1.5% of COVID-19 cases are detected in passengers or 1% of COVID-19 cases are detected in the crew.
If you are interested in volunteering for these test cruises, you can visit the company’s Volunteers of the Seas page on Facebook.
When Can Revenue Cruises Restart?
Once the stimulated cruise has taken place, the company will be required to provide an assessment and point out deficiencies. At that point, they can apply for a conditional sailing certificate that could allow for the restart of large passenger cruises.
However, most cruise companies have gone ahead and started accepting bookings for cruises in the U.S. later this year. Earlier this week, Joe Biden signed an order allowing cruise ships to sail in Alaska without passing through Canada, followed by a flurry of announcements from cruise companies about restarting their voyages.
Vaccination Requirement For Future Cruises Unclear
CEO Richard Fain has previously said that he expected “all of our guests who are eligible for a vaccine to have it.” On the Royal Caribbean website, it states that all passengers 16 and older will be required to show proof of vaccination when revenue cruises resume.
However, this is complicated by the fact that the governor of Florida passed a law that prevents cruise companies from asking passengers for proof of vaccination.
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