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Everything you need to know about Royal Caribbean test cruises

Matt Hochberg

Part of Royal Caribbean's plan to restart cruises is to conduct a series of test sailings that will give the cruise line the opportunity to validate its new health protocols.

Test cruises are non-revenue simulated cruises that are conducted in a manner as close to a real cruise as possible, albeit with volunteers onboard.

Here is a summary of everything we know about Royal Caribbean's test sailings and how they will be conducted.

Why offer test sailings?

In late October 2020, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) opened a pathway for cruise lines to restart with their Framework for Conditional Sailing.

One of the steps outline by the CDC that need to occur before cruise ships can begin taking passengers onboard is for each cruise line to conduct test sailings that will test out the new health protocols the cruise industry as adopted.

These test cruises will use cruise line employees (and possibly others) to help implement and tryout these new health rules.  The goal is to make tweaks and modifications to ensure that everything is running smoothly.

When will test sailings begin?

It is not clear yet when exactly Royal Caribbean may begin test sailings, but it has been hinted they could begin as soon as December.

Prior to starting any test cruises, the CDC wants all cruise lines to ensure there are adequate health and safety protections for crew members.

In addition, Royal Caribbean will use this build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers.

Royal Caribbean has not confirmed when the first test cruises will begin, as they are still working out the details.

Who can volunteer for a test cruise?

Test sailings will be conducted with a combination of Royal Caribbean employees and volunteers, although they are not sure how volunteers will be picked yet.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, said, "We're going to be doing a series of sailings using our employees and other volunteers to test out the new protocols and make tweaks and modifications to ensure that everything is running smoothly and still deliver that Royal Caribbean amazing vacation experience."

The minimum requirements to be a volunteer will be you must be 18 or older, as well as have written proof the person has no pre-existing medical conditions that would place them at high-risk for COVID-19.

Royal Caribbean has set up an online form to take test sailing volunteer contact information.

What is Royal Caribbean required to do during a test cruise?

The purpose of these test sailings it to apply a variety of new cruise line policies and rules to ensure they mitigate any potential spread of a virus onboard.

Volunteers and crew members will be required to follow testing protocols, which includes rapid testing prior to both embarkation and disembarkation.

A simulated voyage must meet the following requirements:

  • Volunteer passengers are to be told in writing of the "inherently risky activity" of their test sailing with untested health and safety protocols.
  • All volunteer passengers must be at least eighteen years old or older.
  • All volunteer passengers must have a written certification from a healthcare provider that they have no pre-existing medical conditions .
  • Royal Caribbean must conduct any simulation on a consensual basis and not as a condition of employment or in exchange for consideration or future reward. 
  • Royal Caribbean must embark additional crew members beyond safe minimum manning levels only as determined through CDC technical instructions or orders.
  •  The cruise ship operator must design and conduct a simulated voyage insofar as practicable to test the efficacy of the cruise ship operator’s ability to mitigate the risks  of COVID-19 onboard its cruise ship.
  • The cruise ship operator must conduct a monitored observation period and laboratory  testing of volunteer passengers, as directed in CDC technical instructions or orders, prior to embarking volunteer passengers on a simulated voyage.

Specifically, the CDC mandates certain activities be conducted during the course of a test sailing:

  • embarkation and disembarkation procedures, including terminal check-in, 
  • on board activities, including at dining and entertainment venues,
  • private island shore excursions (if a port is visited)
  • evacuation procedures,
  • transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARSCoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms,
  • quarantine of all remaining passengers and non-essential crew, and
  • other activities as may be listed in CDC technical instructions and orders.

In addition, Royal Caribbean must meet standards for hand hygiene, face coverings, and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation, as may be required by CDC technical instructions or orders.

Royal Caribbean must modify meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing during the simulated voyage.

How many test sailings will be needed?

It is unknown how many test sailings will be needed yet.

Royal Caribbean has not shared details on its plans for test sailings.

How do I sign up for a test cruise a volunteer?

There is no option for the public to sign up as a volunteer for any test cruises.

There is no waiting list, or means to be notified if a volunteer option becomes available.

If/when Royal Caribbean does allow volunteers to sign up, I will be sure to post about it on