The cruise line's Freedom of the Seas ship will set sail with passengers on June 20.

By Cailey Rizzo
May 26, 2021
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved the first Royal Caribbean test cruise to set sail in a new step in a restart to cruising.

The CDC set a June 20 return for Royal Caribbean sailings a few days after the cruise line submitted their initial test cruise plans to the agency. The CDC will require all cruises in the U.S. to complete test cruises unless 98% of crew and 95% of all passengers are fully vaccinated.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley announced the CDC's decision on Facebook Tuesday, saying that he was "proud and pleased to share some bright and wonderful news."

"CDC has provisionally approved one cruise ship from Royal Caribbean to begin simulated voyages in June, following a request to conduct a simulated voyage and the submission of an accurate and complete port agreement," a spokesperson for the CDC confirmed to USA Today.

Royal Caribbean will operate its first test cruise aboard the Freedom of the Seas with volunteer passengers. Vaccines will not be required to board the ship, although Royal Caribbean Ltd. Executive Richard Fain said earlier this week that he expects passengers will receive the vaccine before they board their voyages. Any passenger who isn't vaccinated must have written documentation from a health professional or self-certify that they are not at increased risk for COVID-19.

Royal Caribbean ship
Credit: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images

The test cruise is required to carry at least 10% of the ship's maximum capacity (the ship can accommodate 4,553 passengers) and abide by the CDC's guidelines for testing and quarantine.

All passengers will undergo a COVID-19 symptom screening before boarding and after disembarking. They must also receive another COVID-19 test three to five days after their cruise.

The CDC previously said it was "committed" to getting ships back out on the open seas by mid-summer.

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden signed the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act into law, allowing cruise ships to bypass Canadian ports and resume the Alaska cruise season this summer. But the start of cruises relies fully upon individual CDC approval.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.