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Here's what it looks like if Royal Caribbean invites you to volunteer for a test cruise

21 Jul 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is asking regular people to volunteer to help go one of the cruise line's test sailings.

Before Royal Caribbean's cruise ships can restart operations, the line needs people to go on simulated voyages as a volunteer and help test out the new Covid-19 protocols and rules.

Some of the first invitations to top tier Crown and Anchor Society members, as well as travel agents, are starting to be sent out via email.

The first test sailings Royal Caribbean conducted were comprised of Royal Caribbean employees who volunteered their time to help out.  But the cruise line is now asking regular people to do test sailings to help get ships back into service.

We now have our first look at what an invitation to a test cruise looks like.

A RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader was selected to sail on the Ovation of the Seas test cruise from Seattle to Alaska at the end of this month.

In case you were wondering, the anonymous person selected for this test cruise is a travel agent, Platinum Crown and Anchor Society member, and signed up to be a volunteer the very first day Royal Caribbean publicized the opportunity.

Ovation will sail a 5-night simulated voyage to Ketchikan, beginning on July 30. If all goes well, her first revenue sailing is scheduled for August 13.

Only volunteers 18 years of age or older, who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, are eligible to join.  One guest in the room must be at least 21 years old.

The two pieces of identification test cruisers need are a valid Passport book or Passport card, and hard-copy of vaccination card as proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 using an FDA or WHO authorized vaccine.

These test cruises are mandated by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC), and volunteers are required to be notified of the riskiness of being part of a test cruise.

"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires this written notification to advise all volunteer passengers that they are participating in health and safety protocols that are unproven and untested in the United States for purposes of simulating a cruise ship voyage and that sailing during a pandemic is an inherently risky activity. "

In the email sent to volunteers that are picked for a given test sailing, the registration system is on a first-come, first served basis, and the faster you sign up, the better your chance of getting a room.  People that take longer to sign up will be put on a wait list.

"Registration will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis and will be capacity controlled. Should the event reach the desired capacity, the registration tool will indicate such and grant you the ability to join our waitlist."

Here are some of the more interesting rules for volunteers who opt to cruise.

Invitations to register for test sailings are non-transferable.

Each guest will be granted one double occupancy stateroom to invite a guest of his/her choice.

Staterooms will be assigned at random and cannot be preselected nor changed once confirmed.

Certain volunteers will be designated as “unvaccinated” to aid in simulating protocols for unvaccinated guests. Volunteers designated as “unvaccinated” will need to undergo COVID-19 testing and may be restricted from entering certain venues.

There will be limited opportunities to dine in specialty restaurants at a 50% discount.

Room service will be available. Breakfast is complimentary and all-day menu will be available for extra charge.

Beverages will be available to purchase at 50% off once onboard. Beverage packages will not be available.

Shore excursions will be available to reserve at 35% off.

VOOM Internet will be available at a 50% discount.

Photo purchases available at a 50% discount for Printed Photos, Digitals and Retail (electronics excluded).

Retail shops and Spa services will be available.

The standard daily gratuity charge will be automatically added to each volunteer’s SeaPass account once onboard.


  • While onboard, masks will be required in indoor spaces, unless actively eating or drinking
  • Masks not required in venues designated as vaccinated-only.
  • Masks not required in your stateroom
  • Masks not needed in pool area or for activities where they could become wet
  • Masks are not required outdoors, unless in a crowded setting

Why is Royal Caribbean doing test cruises?

Some have wondered why Royal Caribbean International did not follow sister brand Celebrity Cruises in mandating 95% of its guests be fully vaccinated, and it has to do with the fact Royal Caribbean International is a family brand.

The simple answer is families, as Royal Caribbean is a family brand and too many children are not eligible yet to be vaccinated. 

Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Mark Tamis, emphasized the decision to conduct test sailings was an easy one for the cruise line, "When the first set of potential regulations were published, it was such an obvious choice of the path that we had to go down."

"Once there were two clear paths, 95% or under 95%, it wasn’t even really a consideration."

Mr. Tamis called the decision "obvious" given how many kids sail with Royal Caribbean, along with the cruise line's dedication to remaining a family brand. "A good 20 to 25 percent of our guests are kids."

Read moreFamilies and kids are the reason why Royal Caribbean is doing test cruises

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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