The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave its first green light for test cruises to Royal Caribbean Group, the agency said in a statement.
amely, the cruise company will be able to conduct simulated cruises with volunteer passengers in late June to test out its COVID-19 protocols from PortMiami on its Freedom of the Seas ship.
The test cruises are a requirement for ships that are not guaranteeing most passengers and crew on board are vaccinated against COVID-19 before revenue cruises can begin.
The approval is a significant step forward for the cruise industry, which has not been able to operate in the U.S. — its most lucrative market — since March 2020 after virus outbreaks and deaths on several ships.
According to local media sources, Royal Caribbean Group is the first company to have its port and local health agreements approved and move onto test cruises.
In light of the situation, the cruise line’s Freedom of the Seas ship will be allowed to sail with volunteer passengers. Vaccine requirements are not mandatory for test sailings per the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order.
All volunteers for test cruises must be 18 years of age or older, but passengers aren’t required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, though if they aren’t, they must have written documentation from a health care provider or must self certify that they aren’t at a heightened risk for COVID-19, according to the CDC.
Concluding all must agree to be evaluated for COVID-19 symptoms before embarking, and after disembarking along with an agreement to be tested for COVID-19 three to five days following the cruise