Royal Caribbean’s goal to get its ships operational is moving along at a brisk pace. With several ships already operational in the United States and elsewhere in the world. Two cruise ships sailed yesterday on test sailings, including the world’s largest-ever cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas sailing from Miami, and Independence of the Seas sailing from Galveston, Texas.
Royal Caribbean has received permission for simulated or test cruises for six vessels, including three Oasis-class ships and Odyssey of the Seas before she started operations over the weekend.
Symphony of the Seas departed on her test sailing on Sunday; the largest ever cruise ship will be gone for three days with a call in Perfect Day at CocoCay, returning to PortMiami on August 3. If all goes well, the ship will be receiving a conditional sailing certificate shortly after that.
Only with this certificate will the vessel be allowed to start preparations for her return to service, which will sail 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean sailings from Miami, starting August 14. Symphony of the Seas‘ maiden post-pandemic voyage will be an 8-day voyage and sail from PortMiami to Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico, Roatan, Honduras, Cozumel, Mexico, and a Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Independence of the Seas sailed from Galveston on her test voyage, which will also take three days. The cruise ship is scheduled to start sailing 7-night Western Caribbean sailings from Galveston, Texas, starting August 15. These cruises will call in Roatan, Honduras, Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico, and Cozumel, Mexico.
Earlier this year, there was some doubt whether the simulated voyage route taken by Royal Caribbean was the way to go. The CDC allows ships to sail with 95% vaccinated passengers aboard, allowing them to avoid sailing on test voyages. By going a route where guests do not need to be vaccinated to go onboard, the cruise line can open up fully to their largest market: families with children.
Michael Bayley, the President of Royal Caribbean, said the following:
“Because of the kids we have been sailing at around 90 percent vaccinated and so we would not be able to operate at the CDC 95 / 95 and so like Disney and MSC we chose this path.”
It could be argued the cruise line has taken the road of most resistance with allowing unvaccinated guests onboard the ship. But, through multiple workarounds like mandatory testing and travel and quarantine insurance for unvaccinated guests (or guests that do not want to share their vaccination status), the cruise line seems to have found a system that works perfectly for them. There have been some cases onboard Royal Caribbean ships that have been dealt with swiftly and with a minimal impact to guests onboard.
The cruise line has always maintained it is impossible to keep all COVID cases off the ships; it would be up to following the procedures and policies to ensure cruising is as safe as possible.
As Richard Fain has said recently:
“We established a goal of being safer on board than a ship on Main Street. We’ve shown that an ambitious goal can be achieved based on hard work and an unemotional review of the facts and the science.”
It is expected that both Symphony of the Seas and Independence of the Seas will be conducting only one simulated voyage, as it has done with the other vessels. Once the sailing has been concluded, the CDC will review the policies onboard, and a conditional sailing certificate should be issued shortly after that.