The test cruises come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its “No-Sail” Order.

By Alison Fox
November 09, 2020
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Royal Caribbean will look for volunteers to test out its safety protocols on simulated sailings before it resumes passenger cruises, a company spokesman confirmed to Travel + Leisure.

“While we are eager to welcome our guests back on board, we have a lot to do between now and then, and we’re committed to taking the time to do things right,” the cruise line spokesman told T+L on Monday. “This includes training our crew in new health and safety protocols and conducting a number of trial sailings to stress-test those protocols in real-world conditions.”

The test cruises come after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its “No-Sail” Order, allowing cruise lines in the U.S. to begin a "phased resumption of cruise ship operations.” As part of the process, cruise lines will have to complete simulated voyages to "test cruise ships' ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk.”

Colleen McDaniel, the editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, told T+L many people have expressed “an eagerness” to join test cruises.

“It’s unlikely these test cruises will feel like a standard cruise vacation, as they are designed for lines to assure that protocols in place are effective,” she said, though many people still want to sign up “as they miss cruising their favorite lines.”

She also noted that according to the guidelines, volunteers will not be paid.

Credit: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Cruising won’t actually resume until at least next year, but major cruise lines are already preparing, coming up with extensive protocols and best practices, including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line’s Healthy Sail Panel. And in addition to testing crew members for COVID-19, as the CDC requires, major cruise lines will also test passengers for the virus before allowing them to embark on any ships, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

When they do resume sailing, Royal Caribbean will likely look to start with short cruises to their private island, CocoCay, in 2021, which would allow it to operate in more of a bubble, Vicki Freed, the senior vice president of sales, trade support, and service, told Cruise Industry News last week. 

“It is going to require a lot of work to restart operations," Freed said. "It is complicated to go through this entire CDC recommendation and we are going to do it.”

While the cruise industry looks ahead, at least one U.S. city will not allow large ships to dock there going forward: Residents of Key West, Fla., voted last week to keep ships carrying more than 1,300 passengers away from the island.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.