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Cruises Resuming

Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval to start test sailings on Oasis of the Seas


The original Oasis Class cruise ship has gotten approval to start test cruises.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley confirmed on Tuesday Oasis of the Seas has received permission from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to start test cruises.

Other ships that have gotten approval to conduct test cruises include Freedom of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas, and Symphony of the Seas.

The CDC's provisional approval for simulated voyages on Oasis of the Seas is August 22-28, 2021.

Mr. Bayley commented later on that the test cruises will sail from Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey.

Simulated voyages (also known as test cruises) are when cruise lines can operate ships with volunteer passengers in order to prove their new protocols work.

These are not cruises you can book, but rather, are limited voyages where a cruise line invites certain unpaid volunteers to help go through all the necessary steps and procedures to ensure cruise ships can be run safely.

Each cruise ship needs to be approved by the CDC in order to conduct test cruises.

Royal Caribbean International is pursuing one of two pathways, laid out by the CDC, to get back to cruising. It requires that U.S-based ships conduct
simulation cruises to test health and safety protocols if the cruise line expects to return to sailing with less than 95% fully vaccinated guests or crew.

Royal Caribbean says it is a family brand, which typically sees children under the age of 12 make up 10% of guests on board, and today, they are ineligible for the

"We are committed to continuing to deliver memorable family vacations, and it is why we are conducting simulation cruises."

During these test cruises, Royal Caribbean will go through a variety of scenarios to prove to the CDC that the ship can conduct sailings in a safe manner. Specifically, the new protocols aimed at preventing Covid-19 from getting onboard the ship are at the heart of these dry runs.

According to the CDC, passengers and crew must meet standards during the simulated voyage for hand hygiene, use of face masks, and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation.

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

Anthem of the Seas arrives in England to begin summer cruises


Royal Caribbean is just days away from restarting cruises from England, and the ship to kick things off has arrived to start up operations.

Anthem of the Seas arrived in Southampton, where she will begin offering cruises on July 7, 2021.

Anthem will offer a combination of 4-night cruises to nowhere in early July and 5- to 8-night British Isles cruises, starting 15th July, that feature visits to destinations such as Liverpool, England, Kirkwall in Scotland and Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

All crew members onboard will be fully vaccinated.

Anthem’s summer itineraries are open for bookings and are available to UK residents above the age of 18 who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and those under the age of 18 with negative test results. In addition, all crew onboard are fully vaccinated.

Ben Bouldin, vice president, EMEA, Royal Caribbean commented: "Anthem of the Seas has always been a firm favourite for UK guests, and we have seen incredible demand for our sailings since announcing our return in March. With a jaw-dropping lineup of onboard activities, restaurants and entertainment, Anthem presents the perfect getaway this summer. We can’t wait to welcome families back on board one of the most revolutionary ships in our fleet for a summer of adventure."

Anthem of the Seas will offer "staycation cruises" around the British Isles.

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


Royal Caribbean International's first cruises back in the United States are officially a go.

Freedom of the Seas received a Conditional Sailing Certificate from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to offer revenue cruises with paying passengers.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley shared the good news, just days before Freedom is scheduled to return to service.

"This is exciting progress," Mr. Bayley said in a social media post. "We look forward to welcoming our guests onboard."

When she sails, Freedom of the Seas will be the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to return to service in the United States.

Freedom’s first revenue sailing will celebrate Fourth of July weekend, July 2-5, departing from Miami and visiting Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island destination, in The Bahamas. 

Freedom of the Seas completed her test cruise last weekend, which was a 3 day, 2 night simulated voyage to Perfect Day at Coco Cay.

Test cruises are part of the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) that the CDC implemented as a way for cruise ships to resume operations.

Since Royal Caribbean will not require at least 95% of its cruise passengers to be fully vaccinated, test cruises are needed to demonstrate to the CDC that the onboard health protocols work.

All of the crew members will be fully vaccinated on Freedom 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. 

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.

Here is a list of the full health protocols for Freedom of the Seas sailings from Miami. will aboard the first sailing of Freedom of the Seas next week to share what the first Royal Caribbean International sailing from the United States in 15 months is like for passengers.

Royal Caribbean will require unvaccinated guests to get travel insurance on cruises from Florida


Another policy change has been announced by Royal Caribbean for unvaccinated cruisers, this time requiring travel insurance on Florida sailings.

Unvaccinated passengers booked on cruises sailing from Florida homeports between August 1 through December 31, 2021 will be required to get medical expense and evacuation insurance that covers a positive case.

This policy applies to sailings from August 1 through December 31, 2021, and all bookings — except bookings made between March 19, 2021 and June 28, 2021.

The cruise line has begun sending emails to guests with the specific policy requirements:

For cruises departing from Florida homeports from August 1 through December 31, 2021, as a condition of boarding, each unvaccinated guest 12 and older must provide proof of a valid insurance policy that has a minimum of (a) $25,000 per person in medical expense coverage and (b) $50,000 per person for quarantine and medical evacuation related to a positive COVID-19 test result.

The insurance policy must name the unvaccinated guest as the policy holder or beneficiary, and may be purchased from a travel insurance company of the guest’s choosing or through the Royal Caribbean Travel Protection Program, which includes the requisite coverage.

This new insurance requirement is yet another policy change aimed to address unvaccinated cruisers sailing from Florida homeports, where cruise lines cannot mandate vaccines for its passengers due to Florida laws.

Florida signed a law that prohibits businesses, schools, and government agencies from requiring people to show documentation certifying Covid-19 vaccinations or post-infection recovery before gaining entry.

Other states have no such laws, or have provisions that allow for the law to be bypassed if required by the federal government.

In addition to requiring travel insurance, unvaccinated guests 12 and older are also required to pay for third-party Covid-19 tests, which will cost $136 USD per guest on sailings of 6 nights or less, and $178 USD per guest on sailings of 7 nights or more. 

For guests age 2 to 11, Royal Caribbean will cover the cost of any required testing.

Royal Caribbean strongly recommends its passengers get fully vaccinated before their cruise, if they are eligible.

The first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to sail from Florida will be Freedom of the Seas on July 2, although more ships will begin sailing from the state later this summer.

By the end of August, five Royal Caribbean cruise ships will be sailing from Florida.

Thus far, Royal Caribbean has only released full protocols for Freedom of the Seas sailings from Miami, where unvaccinated passengers will have to wear masks at all times while indoors, unless actively eating or drinking.

Vaccinated passengers on Freedom of the Seas will be issued wristbands that show they are vaccinated and allow them access to vaccinated-only venues and events.

Passengers who are unvaccinated will have a hole punched in their SeaPass cards.

All passengers will have to show their SeaPass cards to access lounges, shows and dining venues on the ship.

Here’s which parts of the cruise ship will be off limits to unvaccinated passengers on Royal Caribbean’s first cruise back


When Royal Caribbean restarts sailing on its first cruise ship back in service, a few areas of the ship will be unavailable to unvaccinated passengers.

Freedom of the Seas will sail from Miami on July 2, and Royal Caribbean has updated its website with a list of places on the ship that are available to vaccinated or unvaccinated passengers.

Royal Caribbean says all cruise companies sailing from U.S. ports are guided by CDC regulations which currently govern many aspects of cruise ship operations. 

Guests who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will have full access to venues onboard, and won't need to wear a mask at vaccinated-only venues. 

This list of areas unavailable to unvaccinated passengers applies to Freedom of the Seas from Miami in July 2021 only. Royal Caribbean has not announced a list of venues similar to this list for other ships yet.

Unvaccinated guests have access to the turquoise colored boxes and not to the white boxes. 

Your SeaPass card will be required to access lounges, shows and dining venues.

Vaccinated guests will receive a wristband and those who are unvaccinated (or choose not to disclose if they are) will have a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

The concept of areas specifically for those vaccinated is not new, as the cruise line previously announced such plans.

According to its website, Royal Caribbean says it thinks most guests will be vaccinated, and primarily children will make up the majority of unvaccinated passengers.

"On your sailing, most guests (and all our crew) will be vaccinated and those that aren’t are primarily children."

"Travel parties with vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, such as parents with kids, should stick to those venues marked unvaccinated, when together."

It is important to remember the protocols will likely change often with changes to onboard rules throughout the summer and fall.

Volunteering to show vaccination status

Due to Florida law, Royal Caribbean cannot ask if a passenger is vaccinated or not, so it is up to the passenger to inform the cruise line if they are vaccinated.

For guests sailing on the July 2nd Freedom of the Seas cruise, an email was sent to allow them to submit their vaccination status.

Unvaccinated guests 16 years of age and older will need to undergo an RT-PCR test administered by an accredited laboratory of the guest’s choice, and taken within three days of sailing.

Royal Caribbean will require documentation of a negative result for this test prior to embarkation. All costs for this test are the unvaccinated guest’s responsibility.

Cruises are restarting in the U.S. but protocols for every ship are still not certain


Celebrity Edge will set sail today from South Florida, becoming the first cruise ship to sail from the United States since early 2020, but Royal Caribbean Group is still working on details for other ships to come.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain celebrated the restart of cruising from the U.S. from onboard Edge, but he admitted the exact path forward for all ships is still not totally certain.

Speaking in a new video update, Mr. Fain said there is still "confusion" surrounding requirements, regulations, and guidelines on the state and federal levels.

"There's still confusion and it will take a while for the fog to completely clear. For example, we're still not 100 percent sure about the specific protocols on specific sailings and here in Florida, we still don't understand all the implications of the law about vaccination documentation."

Celebrity Edge will sail today from Port Everglades, while Freedom of the Seas will sail from PortMiami next week.

Mr. Fain also alluded to the fact Florida won its lawsuit against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which puts the Conditional Sail Order in question.

"You also know that the U.S. District court ruled in favor of the State of Florida, in a lawsuit challenging the CDC's authority to issue the Conditional Sail Order."

"So more and more uncertainty pending, continued mediation between the parties, and possible further legal action."

Regardless of the challenges, Mr. Fain is optimistic that the industry can persevere.  Despite positive Covid-19 cases on Celebrity Millennium and Adventure of the Seas, the new protocols in place worked well and kept the rest of the guests safe and unencumbered.

"No drama for the other guests, no interruption of their cruise, no difficulty for the local community."

"Simply put, the protocols and procedures worked precisely as they were intended to work."

To summarize his thoughts, Mr. Fain proclaimed, "Cruising in the US is back." will aboard the first sailing of Freedom of the Seas next week to share what the first Royal Caribbean International sailing from the United States in 15 months is like for passengers.

Royal Caribbean will not let unvaccinated passengers go on third-party shore excursions for at least one ship


Unvaccinated guests sailing on Adventure of the Seas will no longer be able to book shore excursions on their own beginning with the next sailing.

Guests booked on Adventure of the Seas received an email indicating unvaccinated passengers, including parents traveling with unvaccinated children, are required to participate in shore excursions offered by local tour operators approved by Royal Caribbean.

If your traveling party is fully vaccinated, there is no change in the shore excursion policy.

In an abundance of caution, when visiting ports other than Perfect Day at CocoCay, parties that include unvaccinated guests, including parents traveling with unvaccinated children, are required to participate in shore excursions offered by local tour operators approved by Royal Caribbean. These tours meet our health and safety requirements for unvaccinated guests.

Entirely vaccinated traveling parties may visit the port freely. All guests are subject to restrictions and requirements as defined by local authorities in the ports we visit. Additional details will be provided onboard.

Royal Caribbean will offer a discount for guests under 16 to help offset the change.

The cruise line says the decision was made "to protect you and the communities we visit."

The change comes one day after two unvaccinated children on Adventure of the Seas tested positive for Covid-19 and had to be quarantined and brought home.

Celebrity Cruises made a similar change this week for their Celebrity Edge sailings that begin this weekend as well from the United States.

Policy changes are nothing new for cruise lines as they resume operations. One constant in the months leading up to cruises restarting has been policy adjustments, reversals, and additions. 

Read moreTop 8 things you should know about going on a cruise in 2021

When Adventure of the Seas' sailings from The Bahamas were announced, shore excursions were initially limited to just cruise line tours.

Then, the company changed policies prior to the first sailing to allow guests to go on any tour, regardless of vaccination status.

Frequently asked questions about being back on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship


Royal Caribbean restarted cruises from North America with Adventure of the Seas last week, and there are plenty of questions about what it is like to be onboard.

While I have shared a lot of information about the cruise experience in live blogs and a recap of the big differences, there are still questions cruise haves have about going on a cruise ship today.

I asked for which questions folks still have, and I'll do my best to answer as many as I can right here.

If it puts your boarding time at 1pm, can you still try to get there early like you used to be able to or not because of the screening?

The answer is no, you cannot check-in earlier than your scheduled time you get the via app.

Before the cruise industry shutdown, check-in times were more of a suggestion, but now they are enforced.

You can, however, drop off your luggage at the British Colonial Hilton before your check-in tine, so that you can walk around Nassau unencumbered.

How do you think protocols for cruises originating in the US might change compared to those you’re experiencing now?

Royal Caribbean is still working on its protocols for all ships and sailings from the United States, but we know about the protocols for Freedom of the Seas from Miami.

Compared to Freedom, the most noticeable changes will be the requirement of face masks for vaccinated and unvaccinated guests indoors in certain situations, the possibility to cruise without being a fully vaccinated adult, and vaccinated-only venues.

I'll compare and contrast the experiences when I sail on Freedom of the Seas next week, and I will absolutely be sharing what it is like with all of you.

Are they cleaning the cabins every day?

Yes, the service provided by your stateroom attendant remains unchanged from what you experienced earlier.

Stateroom attendants visit your room twice a day still, including turn down service in the evening.

Which ship amenities, such as hot tubs and gym, require an advanced reservation that would not have pre-COVID?

To the best of my knowledge, here is what has advanced reservations now that did not before

  • Theater entertainment (this did not exist on Adventure, although Oasis and Quantum class ships had it)
  • Studio B ice skating show
  • Windjammer
  • Fitness center
  • Adventure Ocean

Can you sit with other guests in the main dining room?

I double checked with the Maitre d' to confirm the policy has not changed.

Whether in specialty restaurants or the main dining room, you can only dine with other guests if your reservation numbers are linked.

I am wondering what the kids club is like now?

Adventure Ocean is open, but with limited capacity.

The biggest changes are you register via an iPad instead of paper, and there are limited hours available initially.

Very similar to how Royal Caribbean's nursery works, the staff provide an allotment of hours to register for on the first day to ensure everyone has a fair chance at booking time.

On the first sailing, they gave everyone 15 hours to book, but that dropped to 12 hours for this sailing.

You can book up to the 12 hour limit initially, and then by day 3 or so, they open bookings without a limit.

Are they selling the duty free alcohol on board the ship?

Yes, the duty free alcohol shop is still open on the Royal Promenade, along with all the shops.

You can shop at the jewelry, alcohol, and souvenir shops onboard during their regular hours.

In the Diamond Lounge, are they really swiping your card for every drink you get, including coke and water?

Yes, the adjusted Diamond, Diamond Plus, & Pinnacle benefits mean you get a daily allotment of drink vouchers to use instead of unlimited drinks while in the lounge.

I believe the intent of this change was to reduce demand for guests in the Diamond Lounge, but there are still plenty of guests in and around each evening.

Anyone treating your kids poorly (such as dirty looks) because they are unable to get vaccinated?

Absolutely not, I have not encountered anything like this onboard with our kids.

I make very certain my kids are following the rules onboard, especially wearing masks while indoors and ensuring their masks stay above their nose.

Otherwise, it's "business as usual" when it comes to kids onboard, and they are loving every minute of it.

Is a reservation for Windjammer a necessity, or do the walk-ins get in pretty quickly as well?

I have yet to actually need a reservation, but it is a possibility.

When you walk into the Windjammer, they ask for your stateroom number so they can keep track of how many people are in the restaurant.

Both of the first two sailings have had roughly the same passenger count (just over 1,000 passengers), and I asked the hostess at the Windjammer this morning if they had to enact the policy and turn someone away. Thus far, they have not had to do it.

As I understand it, for entry back in the U.S. you are required to provide a negative Covid test. Is Royal Caribbean providing Covid test on the ship prior to disembarkation?

Yes, you can register for an antigen test that Royal Caribbean will administer onboard towards the end of the sailing.

The test is complimentary, and administered in the main dining room on deck 5.  There is a QR code in the Cruise Compass where you can get the link (although there is a kiosk at the entrance to the dining room where you can register as well).

The test result is emailed to you, as well as delivered via a print out to your stateroom.

What is procedure for back-to-back sailings?

The process for me was very similar to what it was before the industry shutdown.

  1. Meet at the dining room at an assigned time
  2. Do an antigen test
  3. Wait for results
  4. Get new SeaPass card
  5. Walk down to the gangway and check out of the first sailing, and then check into the new sailing

We did not have to actually disembark the ship.

To get off the ships in port do you still have to have purchase an excursion with Royal Caribbean? Or can you just go on your own?

You can book any tour you like, through the cruise line or on your own.

You can also walk around the port area.

Is the ship at limited capacity and do you have to wear masks all the time.

There is a limited capacity for these Adventure of the Seas sailings, although the exact number is not known.

There have been on the first two sailings just over 1,000 passengers.

Fully vaccinated passengers do not need to wear a mask onboard (indoors or outside).  Some ports have mask requirements, such as Cozumel.

Unvaccinated guests (children on these cruises) need to wear masks while inside, unless they are seated for eating or drinking. They do not need to wear a mask outside, or at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Are the Coke Freestyle machines still self service?

No, there is a crew member who will take your cup and fill it for you.

First Royal Caribbean test cruise should begin today


The first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to start test cruises is scheduled to set sail today.

Freedom of the Seas is in Miami to begin a short test cruise, which is a necessary step for revenue cruises to begin.

Royal Caribbean will have 100% of its crew members fully vaccinated on all its sailings.

Royal Caribbean announced a test cruise for Freedom of the Seas back in late May, and she will sail between June 20 - 22.

Simulated voyages (also known as test cruises) are when cruise lines can operate ships with volunteer passengers in order to prove their new protocols work.

These are not cruises you can book, but rather, are limited voyages where a cruise line invites certain unpaid volunteers to help go through all the necessary steps and procedures to ensure cruise ships can be run safely.

If all goes to plan, Freedom of the Seas is scheduled to begin revenue sailings from Miami on July 2, which would make her the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to restart revenue sailings from the United States.

Test cruise requirements

Test cruises come with a variety of requirements that must be completed in order to demonstrate the ship can be operated in a safe manner with the new health protocols

While the ship is indeed conducting a cruise as if it were a normal cruise, the CDC wants the cruise ship to test out procedures and ensure it can handle any health situation it could encounter.

Each ship must conduct at least one simulated cruise, and each voyage must be between 2-7 days in length with a least one overnight stay, including through embarkation, disembarkation, and post-disembarkation testing.

The CDC recommends a test cruise is at least 3 days with 2 overnight stays.

Passengers and crew must meet standards during the simulated voyage for hand hygiene, use of face masks, and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation.

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

And then there is a laundry list of activities that the CDC says the ship needs to test across one or many separate test cruises:

  • Embarkation and disembarkation procedures, as approved by U.S. port and local health authorities as part the cruise ship operator’s Phase 2A agreements, including procedures for terminal check-in.
  • Onboard activities, including seating and meal service at dining and entertainment venues.
  • Medical evacuation procedures.
  • Transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARS-CoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms.
  • Onboard and shoreside isolation and quarantine, as per the terms of the cruise ship operator’s Phase 2A agreements, of at least 5% of all passengers and non-essential crew.
  • Recreational activities that the cruise ship operator intends to offer as part of any restricted passenger voyages, e.g., casinos, spa services, fitness classes, gymnasiums.
  • Private-island shore excursions if any are planned during restricted passenger voyages. The following measures must be observed on the private island:
    • Only one ship can port at the island at any one time.
    • A routine screening testing protocol must be implemented for island staff who are expected to interact with volunteer passengers or crew, unless they are fully vaccinated or have documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
    • Mask use and social distancing must be observed in indoor areas while on the island.
  • Port of call shore excursions if any are planned during restricted passenger voyages. The following measures must be observed on port of call shore excursions:
    • Shore excursions must only include passengers and crew from the same ship.
    • Cruise ship operator must ensure all shore excursion tour companies facilitate social distancing, mask wearing, and other COVID-19 public health measures throughout the tour while in any indoor areas.
    • Cruise ship operators must have a protocol for managing persons with COVID-19 and close contacts at all foreign ports of call. At a minimum, the protocol must include the following:
      • Disembarkation and housing of persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 needing shore-based hospital care and their travel companion(s) for the duration of their isolation or quarantine period.
      • Commercial repatriation of U.S.-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts only after meeting criteria to end isolation and quarantine per CDC guidance. For commercial repatriation of foreign-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts, cruise ship operators must consult with all relevant public health authorities.

Florida conditionally wins lawsuit against CDC to cruise ships can sail from U.S.


A judge has granted an injunction against the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Conditional Sail Order (CSO), albeit with a few conditions.

Florida sued the CDC because it felt the CSO unfairly singled out one industry and was hurting Florida's economy.

Judge Steven D. Merryday issued a 124 page summary, in which he ruled Florida’s motion for preliminary injunction is granted for Florida ports, but it is not a simple lifting of the order.

The CDC is ordered now from enforcing against a cruise ship arriving in, within, or departing from a port in Florida the conditional sailing order and the later measures (technical guidelines, manuals, and the like). 

However, this injunction is suspended until 12:01 a.m. EDT on JULY 18, 2021 1, at which time the conditional sailing order and the measures promulgated under the conditional sailing order will become a recommendation or guideline, and not be required.

Essentially, the CSO can be a consideration like it is for other industries, such as airlines, railroads, hotels, casinos, sports venues, buses, subways, and others.

In addition, the Judge opened up the possibility of the CDC revising the CSO into a "narrower injunction both permitting cruise ships to sail timely and remaining within CDC’s authority as interpreted in this order." They can propose such a measure no later than July 2, 2021.

If the CDC does go ahead with a revision, the new order "must support the proposed terms with current scientific evidence and fully disclose — if unavailable to the public — scientific evidence, including methodology, raw data, analysis, and the like and the names and qualifications of the scientists participating in the study, modeling, or the like."

Florida will get seven days to respond to such a revision by the CDC.

Rationale for granting the injunction

Why did Florida win it's court case?

In short, the CDC’s conditional sailing order and the implementing orders exceed the authority delegated to CDC.

There are four key reasons cited:

  1. Florida’s probability of success on the merits
  2. The imminent threat of irreparable injury to Florida
  3. The comparative injury depending on whether an injunction issues
  4. The imminent and material threat to the public interest

Florida Governor Ron Desantis sued the CDC in April as a way to combat the CDC holding cruise ships back.

 Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody added at the time, "We have filed suit this morning just before meeting with you here today, against the administration, HHS and the CDC, demanding that the court find that this effective No Sail Order is unlawful and allow our cruises to resume safely."