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Royal Caribbean breaks ground on new cruise terminal in Galveston

16 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Construction on Royal Caribbean's new cruise terminal in Galveston was celebrated with an official kickoff ceremony over the weekend.

On Saturday, Royal Caribbean and the Port of Galveston celebrated the start of construction of the Terminal 3 cruise terminal.

Attending the groundbreaking was U.S. Congressman Randy Weber, Texas Rep. Mayes Middleton, City of Galveston Mayor Dr. Craig Brown, and City Councilmember Marie Robb. Representatives from Royal Caribbean and the Port of Galveston were also in attendance.

Work on the new facility began two months ago, but the official groundbreaking ceremony was held to coincide with Independence of the Seas departing Galveston, becoming the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to sail from Galveston since March 2020.

After completing her test cruise earlier this month, Independence of the Seas received her Conditional Sailing Certificate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Terminal 3 will be built at Pier 10 for exclusive use by Royal Caribbean on a 10 acre parcel of land, which will eventually be the new homeport for Allure of the Seas.

The cruise terminal is estimated to cost $110 million and encompass 150,000 square feet of space.

The facility will feature state-of-the-art technology, including mobile check-in and facial recognition to expedite guest arrival. The terminal will be designed and developed sustainably to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental) certification standards.

Construction of the terminal should be completed by November 2022.

Once construction is complete, Allure of the Seas is scheduled to arrive on November 13, 2022.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: August 15, 2021

15 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Welcome to this week's edition of the Royal Caribbean post round-up, where we summarize all of the Royal Caribbean news and information from this week into one handy-dandy post! There is plenty of great content to enjoy, so sit back, relax, and enjoy this week's round-up!

The cruise industry took notice this week when a United States District Judge sided with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) against the State of Florida in the question of can a company ask for proof of a Covid-19 vaccination.

NCLH was granted a preliminary injunction which would allow a cruise line to require passengers to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 if sailing from Florida.

Judge Kathleen M. Williams said in the docket that the combination of trying to restore consumer confidence and the Delta variant contributed to NCLH's win.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 418th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Matt looks at new rules Royal Caribbean recently announced.

There has been plenty of rule changes lately, but this week, Matt breaks down the three biggest changes announced over the last few weeks.

Please subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! 

Video: 10 Truths of going on a Royal Caribbean cruise right now

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video: 10 Truths of going on a Royal Caribbean cruise right now

What it's like on the Mariner of the Seas test cruise

What happens on a test cruise? 

Mariner of the Seas is the latest cruise ship to sail on a test cruise, and these simulated voyages are an opportunity to demonstrate new protocols to federal regulators, as well as give the crew a chance to prepare for the real thing.

Matt just sailed on Mariner of the Seas for her 2-night test cruise, and shared everything he did onboard.

World's largest cruise ship restarts sailings today

14 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean's Symphony of the Seas restarts cruises today after being shutdown due to the global health crisis.

Symphony may not be the first cruise ship to restart, but she is the largest cruise ship in the world, which is a significant milestone for the cruise industry.

Royal Caribbean has been slowly and methodically restarting its ships with a wealth of new health protocols and policies in place to protect guests, crew members, and the communities each of its ships visits.

All of the crew members will be fully vaccinated on Symphony of the Seas, and any unvaccinated guests (mainly children, according to the cruise line) will be subject to additional testing requirements and specific health protocols. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved the ship to restart operations following a simulated voyage earlier this month, when the crew demonstrated the new protocols meet the agency's needs.

All passengers onboard, vaccinated or not, will need to take a Covid test before the cruise, and wear face masks in public areas onboard unless in a designated vaccinated-only zone.

While Symphony has a capacity of over 5,400 passengers, the ship will sail with significantly less guests while Royal Caribbean gets more ships back into service and evaluates its health protocols. While the exact number of passengers for the first sailing is not yet know, other Royal Caribbean ships have been sailing with just around 1,000 passengers at the most onboard.

Symphony of the Seas will depart today from PortMiami and embark on a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise that visits Cozumel, Costa Maya and Roatan.

Symphony is not the first Oasis Class cruise ship to restart. Sister ship Allure of the Seas was able to start up first earlier this month.  The two other Oasis Class ships will resume operations shortly as well.

Harmony of the Seas will depart Barcelona on Sunday, while Oasis of the Seas will resume operations from Cape Liberty in early September.

Some of the protocols for unvaccinated guests include being limited from accessing certain venues onboard, as well as being required to get travel insurance for sailings beginning in August.

CDC rules force Royal Caribbean to cancel culinary classes on cruise ships

14 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Guests will have to wait a bit longer before Royal Caribbean can offer certain culinary classes on its ships again.

Royal Caribbean sent an email to guests who had select culinary events and classes reserved that these are now canceled.

According to the cruise line, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance does not allow the cruise line to offer certain group culinary events.

"As part of the guidance received from the Centers of Disease Control, we've had to adjust some of our special culinary events and classes," the cruise line said in an email sent to guests.

"We're sorry for the impact and inconvenience this may have on your time with us."

These group events allow guests to try their hand at making certain foods in a fun environment, with a crew member leading the guests in the techniques to create (and then eat) their creations.

This includes cancelling:

  • Sprinkle Time Cupcake
  • Sushi classes
  • Guacamole classes

Guests who had these classes booked will receive a refund to the original form of payment within 30 days.

It is not clear when these classes will be offered again onboard.

The cruise line confirmed that Taste of Royal and Sushi and Saki Pairing will still be offered to guests.

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval for Independence of the Seas to sail

13 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has successfully received permission for Independence of the Seas to sail from the U.S. government.

After completing her test cruise earlier this month, Royal Caribbean announced the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved the ship for service with paying passengers.

Independence received her Conditional Sailing Certificate from the CDC, which means the ship is ready to sail with passengers on August 15.

Just last week, Royal Caribbean received a Conditional Sailing Certificate for Allure of the Seas.

This certificate is the final phase of the CDC's phased approach, known as the Conditional Sail Order (CSO), to allowing cruise ships to resume operations from the United States, and is yet another ship in the fleet to get approval by the U.S. government to sail.

Independence of the Seas completed her test cruise from Galveston on August 1st.

This is now the fifth ship to get approval from the CDC to restart cruises, following Freedom, Serenade, Ovation, and Odyssey of the Seas.

Independence will offer 7-night Western Caribbean sailings from Galveston, Texas.

Read more8 things to love about Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas

For cruises departing Galveston, Texas in August 2021 onboard Independence of the Seas, Royal Caribbean guests age 12 and older must present proof of Covid-19 vaccination with the final dose of their vaccine administered at least 14 days before sailing.

All crew onboard Independence of the Seas will be fully vaccinated.

All unvaccinated guests ages 2 to 11 must undergo 2 more COVID-19 tests at the cruise terminal and prior to disembarking.

Guests under 2 years of age will not be tested.

Royal Caribbean has also outlined the mask rules for guests onboard Independence of the Seas in August that are age 2 and up:

Masks are NOT required to be worn:

  • In open-air areas of the ship, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • In the pool or any activity where they may become wet.
  • At venues designated for vaccinated guests only, such as select bars, lounges, restaurants and shows.
  • In your stateroom when you are with your traveling party.
  • While visiting our private destination, Perfect Day at CocoCay, unless you are in a crowded setting.
  • By any guest under the age of 2.

Masks ARE required to be worn:

  • While indoors onboard the ship, unless seated and actively eating or drinking.
  • While visiting public ports of call, where local regulations may require them.

Dining & Lounges
In the Main Dining Room, which spans multiple decks, we will designate areas for everyone, including parents and unvaccinated children, and areas for vaccinated parties only. My Time Dining will not be available to parties that include unvaccinated guests.

Most specialty restaurants will be open to everyone, while a few will be for vaccinated parties only. If you prefer a buffet, Windjammer will be open to everyone for breakfast and lunch, and the food will be served by our crew.

Grab-and-go cafes will also be available for everyone.

Theaters and activity venues will offer spaced seating with options for everyone and for vaccinated guests only. 

Royal Caribbean brings back WOW Sale with up to $300 onboard credit

13 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean rolls out new promotions all the time, but their signature offer is back with the WOW Sale.

The WOW Sale offers a combination of a few offers in one, and has traditionally been one of the more sought after cruise deals.

The WOW Sale is available for new bookings made between August 12-15, 2021 on sailings departing on or after September 12, 2021.

It includes:

  • Up to $300 onboard credit per stateroom
    • Sailings 5 nights or less, $50 OBC for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $150 for Suites
    • Sailings 6 nights or longer, $75 OBC for Interior and Ocean View, $100 for Balconies and $300 for Suites
  • 60% off second guest
  • Up to $200 CAD off all sailings departing on January 1 – December 31, 2022.

Offer available to residents of United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and select countries in the Caribbean. 

Here is the fine print for the WOW Sale offer:

WOW Sale applies to new bookings made between August 12-15, 2021. WOW Sale offers up to $300 USD to spend at sea (“Onboard Credit” or “OBC”) per stateroom on select sailings departing on or after September 12, 2021. OBC amounts are per stateroom and determined by category booked and sailing length: On sailings 5 nights or less, $50 OBC for Interior and Ocean View, $75 for Balconies and $150 for Suites; on sailings 6 nights or longer, $75 OBC for Interior and Ocean View, $100 for Balconies and $300 for Suites. Onboard credit does not apply to China departures. The “Cruise with Confidence” program allows individual guests and guests in non-contracted groups who booked a cruise on or before August 31, 2021, for cruises sailing between June 12, 2020 and April 30, 2022, to opt-in for RCI’s “best price guarantee” on their current sailing, or cancel their cruise up to 48 hours prior to the vacation start date and have the option to receive a Future Cruise Credit (“FCC”) equal to the amount of the cruise fare the guest paid for their cruise. CWC FCC must be applied by April 30, 2022 towards the cruise fare due on an existing booking, on RCI, for a sailing departing on or before September 30, 2022. Visit for complete details. All other Nonrefundable Deposit Bookings (“NRDB”) cancelled prior to final payment due date will receive a future cruise credit in the amount of the deposit minus a 100USD/CAD per person service fee. FCC is non-transferable and expires after 12-months from issue date. 100USD/CAD per person service fee applies to changes to NRDB ship or sail date. Deposits made toward Guarantees and Grand Suites and higher categories are non-refundable and are subject to NRD Booking Terms. Combinability: BOGO60 and 2022 Kicker are combinable with each other as well as promotional OBCs, Next Cruise offers, instant savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Promo Code driven offers, Free Upgrades, Crown and Anchor discounts and Shareholder Benefits. WOW Sale is combinable with BOGO60 and 2022 Kicker as well as with promotional OBCs, Next Cruise offers, Instant Savings, restricted discounts (for example, Seniors, Residents, Military), Promo Code driven offers, Free Upgrades, and Shareholder Benefits, but not combinable with Crown and Anchor discounts. Resident rates apply to select states on select sailings; valid state of residence must be provided at time of booking. Offer is not combinable with any other offer or promotion, including, but not limited to, Standard Group, Interline, Travel Agent, Travel Agent Friends and Family, Weekly Sales Events, and Net Rates. Promo Code driven offers are based on select ships and sail dates and must be applied at time of booking; limit one promo code per booking. General Terms: All other charges, including, but not limited to, taxes, fees and port expenses, are additional and apply to all guests. Instant savings amount shown in USD and will be converted to currency used for cruise purchase. Savings applied to cruise fare at checkout. Instant savings will be reflected in checkout as “Dollars Off” or “Savings.” Onboard Credit will be reflected in checkout as “Ship Spend” or “Ship Credit.” Onboard credit and instant savings do not apply to China departures. OBC is in USD, has no cash value, is non-transferable, not redeemable for cash, and will expire if not used by 10:00 PM on the last evening of the cruise. After the offer period, the offer will be removed from the booking if the guest cancels and reinstates the booking or rebooks into a new booking on the same ship and sail date, applies a fare change, or changes the ship or sail date of the booking; certain other changes to the booking may also result in removal of the offer. Offer applies to new, individual and named group bookings confirmed at prevailing rates. Individual reservations may be transferred into an existing group, assuming required criteria are met; full deposit will be required at time of transfer. Failure to apply the required full deposit amount may result in the cancellation of the booking. Single occupancy guests paying 200% cruise fare are eligible for full amount of offer; single occupancy guests paying less than 200% cruise fare are eligible for a prorated amount of the offer. Offer available to residents of United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and select countries in the Caribbean. Prices and offers are subject to availability and change without notice, capacity controlled, and may be withdrawn at any time. Refer to for complete terms and conditions. Royal Caribbean International reserves the right to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions and to change or update fares, fees and surcharges at any time without prior notice. ©2021 Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Ships’ registry: Bahamas.    

How to check for a price drop

While the WOW Sale can be an opportunity to book a new sailing, what if you already have a cruise booked?

New offers like this can be applied to existing reservations, provided there is a price drop.

The most common way to check for a price drop is to do a mock booking for the same sailing, ship, and stateroom category you are currently booked on via Royal Caribbean's website.

Be certain you are comparing the exact same room category code, as well as the deposit type (refundable or non-refundable deposit).

Read moreWill a Royal Caribbean sale actually save me any money?

Some travel agents (the great ones) will check for price drops on your behalf.  In our experience, travel agents that take the extra step to check for price drops on behalf of their clients tend to do this when new sales and promotions are announced. Here is one such recommended travel agency that specializes in Royal Caribbean. If you are not convinced using a free travel agency that is recommended by Royal Caribbean is right for you, read our post discussing the benefits they offer.

Royal Caribbean's best price guarantee allows guests to reprice their cruise at the lower cruise fare if the price for that cruise goes down at any time before final payment date. As long as the price drops for the same ship and sail date that has been booked previously, and it is before final payment date, guests can reprice their cruise as many times as they want.

If you are past final payment date for your sailing, you can still apply for a price drop thanks to the enhanced Cruise with Confidence program and get onboard credit for the difference in price, rather than a refund.

Mariner of the Seas Test Cruise Live Blog - Day 2

12 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

The second day of the Mariner of the Seas test cruise takes us to Royal Caribbean's private island of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Being that I have been here a few times, I aspired to do something different this time around.  Erica from Cruise.Blog challenged me to find 5 things to do at CocoCay that I've never done/seen/eaten. Challenge accepted!

The ship docked quite early and was cleared to let guests off at 8am, although I slept in a bit and was off the ship a bit before 9am.

I figured to find something different, I would head in the direction of Chill Island, as I tend to gravitate towards things on other side of the island.

Immediately I ran across my first new thing: hammocks.

There are hammocks all around the island, but I think the best hammocks are near the bridge that leads to Chill Island because they are under a number of palm trees that provide a lot of shade.

With the cooler temperatures of the morning and a nice breeze, it was really relaxing and I could have easily taken a nap here if I stumbled upon these later in the day.

Being in the area, I walked down the beach of Chill Beach, which is really beautiful and with few guests around that early, it was a nice morning stroll.

The next thing I tried that was brand new was to go to Harbor Beach to try the marine bean bags.  

The beach bags are not new, but I remember seeing them in the past but never tried them out.  These things are really comfortable, and I would much rather slump into one of these than a standard beach lounger.

Harbor beach is another overlooked gem of the island, as it has little to no waves and usually gets far less crowded than Breezy Bay or Chill Island.

With two new things down, I wanted to do something a bit more active, so I headed to the sports court of Breezy Bay where they have a few games you can play.

These games are complimentary and include volleyball, bean bag toss, jenga and more.

I was drawn to something completely different that I had never seen before: wall golf.

Essentially, you put a golf ball in a wooden circle at the bottom of the golf course. The circle is controlled by two strings, which you pull to move the circle left, right, and up.

The goal is to move the ball around the course without falling into one of the hazards and successfully into the hole. 

I am happy to say years of video games gave me a superior edge in this game because my hand-eye coordination was on point.

By now the temperature was starting to rise and I was ready for a cool down, so I headed to Oasis Lagoon.

Oasis Lagoon is my favorite spot to chill, and the pool was so under crowded because of how few passengers are onboard it was like having the pool bar to ourselves.

Time for number four on my challenge, and I decided to eat lunch at Chill Grill.  While I have walked around Chill Grill, I'm not entirely sure I have actually stopped for a meal here (usually I go to Snack Shack for lunch). 

The Portobello sandwich was a surprise hit because it tasted more like an eggplant parmigiana sandwich than I expected. 

I also really loved the taco bar, which was very similar to the burritos you can make at El Loco Fresh.

For my final part of the challenge, I decided to swim out to the floating bar.

In fairness, I had been to the floating bar, but it was in its old location before the Coco Beach Club was built and I am pretty sure this version is larger than the old floating bar.  So I'm going to count it for this challenge!

There was such a strong breeze on the floating bar that it was quite comfortable being out there because the hot temperatures did not feel as oppressive.

After a full day at CocoCay, I was feeling not only content but sleepy.  So I headed back to the ship for a shower and nap.

For dinner this evening, we went to Izumi to have sushi.  

Izumi on Mariner of the Seas is primarily a hibachi option, but there is a sushi bar as well.

Overall, the two night test cruise went off without any issues that I noticed and I really enjoyed being onboard.

Royal Caribbean will have other test cruises in the future, including Oasis and Liberty of the Seas coming up in a few weeks. I hope everyone that gets to go on those test sailings enjoys the experience as much as I did.

Next up for me will be a return to Mariner of the Seas for her first revenue sailing on August 23.  Look for more live coverage from that sailing!

Mariner of the Seas Test Cruise Live Blog - Day 1

11 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Mariner of the Seas is Royal Caribbean's next cruise ship to begin a test sailing, and I was lucky enough to get a spot onboard.

Royal Caribbean invited the general public to be a part of the test sailing, following through on an offer they made months ago for just about anyone to come help the cruise line test out the ships.

Guests sailing on a test cruise pay nothing for the cruise fare, but drinks, gratuities, and everything else costs extra.

Mariner sails a 2-night cruise from Port Canaveral, which means a short drive to the cruise terminal from my house.

One change on this sailing was everyone had to get a negative Covid-19 test result, which meant up to 3 days prior to sailing taking a test.

I was able to get a reservation at CVS about 30 minutes from me for no additional cost, but the lesson for anyone reading is to make an appointment as early as you can for a Covid test to ensure you don't have any issues.

My check-in time was at noon, and once again there was a line for folks based on what time your check-in time is, and they are absolutely enforcing the check-in times.

The process of checking in was otherwise pretty much the same as other ships since cruises restarted.

Royal Caribbean changed up the wristband for this sailing. Instead of a purple silicon bracelet for the fully vaccinated passengers, guests are given a nylon(ish) bracelet.

One tried-and-true recommendation is to do as much as you can before the cruise in terms of completing the online check-in.  The more you do at home, the less you wait around in the terminal.

Soon enough, I was boarding Mariner.

Our cabins were ready upon boarding, so I quickly dropped off my luggage there before heading up to the Windjammer for lunch.

For this cruise, I was assigned a balcony cabin on deck 7.

Your SeaPass cards are waiting outside your room door. When boarding, you rely purely on your boarding pass.

There was a letter in the room to remind me there are no Crown and Anchor perks on this sailing because we got this cruise for free. I'll gladly take that tradeoff.

You might be wondering what you have to do as a volunteer on these test cruises, and the answer is essentially be there and give the crew an opportunity to work.

There are some guests who will be deemed unvaccinated so they fulfill that role onboard, but it seems nearly everyone is designated as vaccinated (for the record, all guests are indeed fully vaccinated on this sailing).

I have yet to actually find and/or speak to someone who has been designated unvaccinated on this or the Allure of the Seas test cruise I was on.

One thing I really love about Mariner are some of the upgrades she received as part of the 2018 Royal Amplification. New bars, restaurants, and sports deck activities.

Walking around the ship, it looks just as I remembered it from before the shutdown, and upkeep of the vessel during the pause looks to be fantastic.

One venue I had to go back to immediately was the Bamboo Room, which is a tiki inspired bar.

The Bamboo Room has a great menu of drinks not found elsewhere on the ship, and I especially missed having a "On the go", which is kind of like an adult version of a Capri Sun.

Of course, we had to complete the emuster process, which is a mere formality at this point after the other sailings I have done.  It is so easy that I cannot imagine going back to the old muster drill process.

I am sailing solo on this sailing, so I decided to do something I had not done on any other sailing this summer on the first day: go to the hot tub.  

Sailaway was right around 5pm, and I enjoyed a beautiful view from the promenade deck as we departed Port Canaveral.

On my way back to my room, I stopped by Guest Services and was told there were around 515 guests onboard this sailing.

Going back to my room, I saw an invitation to go to the suite lounge to help test out a simulated happy hour. Seriously.

I was intrigued, so I went to the suite lounge and I thought perhaps a mistake was made because I am not a Pinnacle member in Crown and Anchor Society and I'm not staying in a suite.

The Suite Concierge told me there are so few guests onboard that they need volunteers to help test out the happy hour process in the lounge so the staff is prepared when revenue guests start coming onboard.  

Yes, I was asked to help out by drinking cocktails and I can assure you all that I did my civic duty.

In terms of entertainment, there is the full assortment of options onboard, including a comedian, singers and more.

For dinner, I wanted to check out Jamie's Italian because I had not been to Jamie's Italian on any ships since the restart occured.

The Jamie's Italian menu on Italian is the "revised" menu that was changed over the last few years.  I especially like their eggplant parmigiana for how "light" it is with breading or overly saturated with cheese.

Our table picked out a few menu items to try, and I really liked the different approach to Italian food that Jamie's has.  Not sure I would go as far as to say I like it better than the new Giovanni's Italian Kitchen on Freedom of the Seas, but it was very satisfying.

Tomorrow we will visit Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Mariner of the Seas to begin her test cruise today

11 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Another Royal Caribbean cruise ship is ready to return to sea to get federal approval to sail again.

Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas will depart Port Canaveral on Wednesday for a short 2-night simulated voyage.

The plan is for Mariner to visit Perfect Day at CocoCay before returning back to Port Canaveral on Friday.

This is another simulated cruises required by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) as part of its phased approach to cruise ships restarting in the United States.

Royal Caribbean has been systematically getting its cruise ships back in service by staffing them up, operating a test cruise, and then once they get approval from the CDC, beginning revenue sailings.

The purpose of a test cruise is to demonstrate to the CDC that the onboard health protocols can work, and keep crew members and passengers safe.

While a recent lawsuit victory by the State of Florida made the CDC's Conditional Sail Order not required anymore, Royal Caribbean said it will continue to follow CDC cruise ship recommendations.

Something new for this particular test cruise will be the presence of volunteers who signed up to help go on a test cruise.

Since November 2020, Royal Caribbean has asked anyone interested in being a volunteer on a test cruise to sign up for the opportunity.  Mariner of the Seas is the first ship to sail with volunteers from the Volunteer of the Seas group.

The first test sailings relied on only Royal Caribbean employees, but as more ships return to service, the cruise line is relying on volunteers to step in and assist.

Test cruises on Oasis of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas are also scheduled soon, and both ships will also include volunteers.

Thus far, four other Royal Caribbean ships have successfully conducted test cruises: Freedom of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, and Allure of the Seas.

If the test sailing goes well, Mariner of the Seas could be ready for her first scheduled voyage on August 23.

What happens on a test cruise?

Test cruises are a combination of two things: health protocol demonstration and crew shakedown.

The CDC requires Royal Caribbean to test out a variety of the new health protocols onboard and simulate a few scenarios to ensure the ship and crew are prepared for any Covid-19 issues that could occur.

There is a list of activities that any cruise ship doing a test cruise must complete in order to pass the test.  The CDC gives cruise lines the option of completing these requirements over one or multiple sailings, but thus far, Royal Caribbean has opted to complete test sailings over the course of a single voyage.

Test cruises are necessary for any ship sailing in U.S. waters that will carry more than 250 passengers and crew.

Royal Caribbean also takes this opportunity to make certain the ship is ready for guests to arrive on revenue sailings, and rectify any issues that might pop up from an operations standpoint.

Why is Royal Caribbean doing test cruises?

Other cruise lines have opted to skip test cruises and require at least 95% of its passengers be fully vaccinated, but Royal Caribbean has not and that is because of the line's dedication to families.

Royal Caribbean has been adamant that it wants families to be able to cruise, including children who are not old enough to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

As a result, Royal Caribbean decided to take the extra time to do test cruises so that it could continue to welcome children onboard its ships.

Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Mark 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."

Live test cruise coverage


RoyalCaribbeanBlog will be onboard this Mariner of the Seas test cruise, and I'll be sharing what it's like on a test cruise right here!

There will be daily live blogs to read, as well as live broadcasts on FacebookYouTube, and Twitter.

CDC rule prohibits cruise ships based outside of United States from returning for 14 days

10 Aug 2021
Matt Hochberg

Celebrity Cruises announced a new round of cancelled sailings for one of its ships that was scheduled to return to the United States, and it is because of a rule the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has for ships homeported outside the U.S.

Celebrity Cruises announced it has cancelled 4 sailings of Celebrity Summit between August 28 and September 11, 2021 because of the CDC's rule.

According to the CDC, the current requirements indicate that all ships operating with passengers outside of U.S. waters (i.e. ships with a homeport outside of the U.S.) will not be eligible to enter U.S. waters until 14 days after the last passenger disembarks.

A spokesperson for the agency told,"At this time, there is no exception to this requirement; therefore, all ships planning to sail in U.S. waters under the conditional sailing order (CSO) will be required to sail without passengers for 14 days prior to entering U.S. waters."

This rule does not apply to cruise ships that homeport in the U.S. which sail to international waters. Rather, just ships embarking passengers in foreign countries.

The CDC added that they are "currently evaluating the need for options as ships want to reposition to the U.S. in the fall."

This policy has been in place since the start of the CSO in the agency's technical instructions.

 For ships currently outside of U.S. waters and not operating under the CSO, submission of the Enhanced Data Collection form for 14 days preceding the cruise ship’s expected arrival in U.S. waters is required prior to being assigned a color status.

It is unclear yet if other ships returning to the United States from Europe will also be affected by the policy.

In a letter to passengers booked on Celebrity Summit, the cruise line explained it was canceling the four sailings because of this CDC policy, "The CDC has currently advised any ship returning to the US after having traveled in international waters may not sail with guests onboard for at least 14 days."

Royal Caribbean's Adventure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, and Jewel of the Seas are all sailing European cruises this summer, and are scheduled to return at the conclusion of their season.

I've reached out to Royal Caribbean for an update on how this policy may affect current deployment plans, if at all.

Adventure of the Seas schedule looks to already have enough of a pre-built in gap when she finishes her sailings from Nassau, Bahamas and moves to Galveston, Texas.