Freedom of the Seas has completed the first test sailing by a large cruise ship from the United States since March of last year. After two days away, the vessel is now back in Miami from completing her first test voyage.
The cruise ship was the first vessel to set sail with passengers on board since the start of the pandemic. The Royal Caribbean ship departed early in the evening on Sunday with 600 volunteers, Royal Caribbean employees, and representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Guests enjoyed two days onboard, including a Perfect Day at CocoCay.
First Cruise Scheduled for July 2
Freedom of the Seas has to sail on at least one of these simulated voyages to satisfy the requirements from the CDC. Although a judge has already declared that the Conditional Sail Order is no longer valid for Florida, the rules still apply.
Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley posted:
“Today Freedom of the Seas returned to Terminal A, Port of Miami after completing its 3 day, 2 night simulated voyage to Perfect Day at Coco Cay. The CDC sailed with us ! Wrap up meeting this morning and looks like all is good. Now waiting for official process and feedback from the CDC over the next few days. July 2nd we sail from Miami and plan on a lot of fireworks July 4th at Perfect Day. Huge Thank you to our Operations team and all our crew ! Onwards and upwards!”
During the simulated voyage or test cruise, as it is more commonly known, the CDC looks at whether or not Freedom of the Seas complied with all the protocols the agency requires from the vessel. The agency could demand more test cruises if not all these requirements were satisfied during the last three days.
The ship has to pass the test cruise phase to sail on her first revenue cruise, which is planned for departure from Miami on July 2. This will feature a special ‘Fourth of July’ weekend cruise to Perfect Day in CocoCay. After that, Odyssey of the Seas was initially scheduled to start on July 3, but due to positive tested crew members, the ship had to cancel its test cruise and first sailings in July.
According to Michael Bayley, the company’s CEO, the cruise line has chosen to take the pathway with simulated voyages due to the high number of families with children that often come to the ships. By choosing to sail with both vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, the cruise line can welcome everyone on board, as long as they have been either vaccinated or tested negative:
“As a family brand, Royal Caribbean typically sails with 10 percent of our guests under 12 years old, and today, they are ineligible for the vaccine. We are committed to continuing to deliver memorable vacations to families, and that is why we are conducting simulated cruises.“
What Are The Requirements from The CDC?
The CDC has developed two different pathways under the Conditional Sail Order in which cruise companies can set sail. The first is the option of vaccinated guests only. Here 95% of all guests onboard, and 98% of the crew, must be vaccinated before the ship can set sail.
The other option is the one that Royal Caribbean is choosing specifically for cruises out of Florida. This is because of the family atmosphere the cruise line wants to have onboard and to satisfy the law in Florida, which states that cruise lines are not allowed to ask for proof of vaccination.
The CDC will be testing the vessel on whether the standards for hand hygiene, use of face masks, social distancing for passengers and crew, and ship sanitation are met. Also included are embarkation and disembarkation procedures, onboard activities, medical evacuation procedures, and private-island shore excursions.
Whether or not the test cruise has been successful will likely be announced by the cruise line later. One thing is for sure; the entire cruise industry will be eager to find out the findings from the CDC and how the industry will be able to progress after this important milestone in the restart of cruises.