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I'm back from a short cruise: Why a Freedom of the Seas cruise is great

10 May 2022

Just a few days ago I disembarked from a short, 3-night Bahamas cruise on Freedom of the Seas. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I boarded, but I quickly found out that a short cruise has a totally different atmosphere than a longer cruise, bringing a party vibe and jam-packed schedule of fun to the cruise experience… and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

This was my first "weekend cruise" and, while short, it provided an excellent weekend getaway on one of Royal Caribbean's most recently updated cruise ships. Freedom of the Seas sails from Miami, Florida biweekly to offer 3 and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas.

While some people may prefer a 7-night cruise or longer, I found plenty of benefits to booking a shorter cruise and ultimately had an amazing weekend onboard. Let’s take a look at why sailing to the Bahamas on Freedom of the Seas is a great option for a cruise vacation.

Fun port days

While for many cruise passengers the ship is considered the destination, I still prefer a port-intensive cruise itinerary. Being able to explore new cultures and countries is my favorite aspect of cruising.

Some 7-night cruises may only include 3 port days with 3 days at sea. Nearly every short cruise on Freedom of the Seas, however, has 2 port days, so you have the opportunity to explore multiple ports in a shorter time frame.

My 3-night cruise visited Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay. In Nassau I was able to visit Pearl Island and spend the day swimming in crystal clear water, kayaking, and enjoying fruity cocktails under the sun. Coupled with a short walk around downtown Nassau and visit to a historic fort, there was no shortage of activities to discover during my day in port.

Plus, a huge benefit of sailing on Freedom of the Seas is that nearly every itinerary includes a stop at Royal Caribbean’s private destination of Perfect Day at CocoCay. Whether you decide to go down the waterslides at Thrill Waterpark, treat yourself to a day at the Coco Beach Club, or simply sunbathe in a beach chair, you're guaranteed to have an excellent beach day.

Additionally, as CocoCay is a private destination, all Royal Caribbean drink packages work on the island, giving passengers more bang for their buck while on shore.

If you’re concerned about having too busy of an itinerary, consider booking the 4-night Freedom of the Seas cruise. While it runs mid-week (Monday to Friday) instead of on the weekend, the itinerary will include one sea day which you can use to further explore the ship and relax onboard.

Lively atmosphere

Shorter cruises tend to have a higher-energy atmosphere when compared to longer cruises, and can often be considered a "party cruise".

On a Freedom of the Seas cruise, especially a 3-night cruise from Friday to Monday, expect a party atmosphere onboard. In fact, it was the liveliest cruise I've had to date and I really enjoyed it! The pool deck was always busy with people dancing, drinking, and sunbathing. Onboard activities like karaoke were more crowded than I've ever seen before, with guests cheering on the participants and belting out their favorite tunes.

The passenger demographics were quite different from what I've experienced on other sailings. In general, the demographics skewed younger. Bachelor parties, wedding guests, and friend groups seemed to be more common than retirees and long-time cruisers.

Whereas cruising on brand new ships like Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas seemed to attract those who were loyal Royal Caribbean cruise fans, most guests on Freedom of the Seas seemed to be onboard just to have fun with less consideration of the specific ship or cruise line.

If you're looking for a little peace and quiet, though, you'll still be able to find that onboard. During my cruise I found that the ship was relatively empty in the morning due to late-night partying during the evening!

What does Freedom of the Seas offer?

Freedom of the Seas is a Freedom Class cruise ship which first debuted in 2006, but was recently amplified in early 2020 through the Royal Amplified program.

The ship's amplification added a variety of Royal Caribbean's latest and greatest features onboard. If you cruised on Freedom of the Seas prior to 2020 and are considering cruising on the ship again, you'll be impressed with the following new additions:

  • Perfect Storm water slides
  • Caribbean resort-style pool deck
  • The Lime & Coconut bar
  • Giovanni's Italian Kitchen
  • Updated Adventure Ocean programming
  • Splashaway Bay kids aqua park
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade

These new additions makes Freedom of the Seas a fantastic ship choice for anyone, with activities catering to guests of all ages and cruising styles.

Freedom of the Seas also has Royal Caribbean's updated Adventure Ocean programming, offering free childcare for children aged 3-17 onboard. For those with kids aged 6-36 months, nursery care is available at an extra cost.

The updated Adventure Ocean programming has a more relaxed atmosphere than the original children's programming, allowing kids to freely choose activities that are of interest to them. From arts & crafts to science labs, video games, reading, and dodgeball, kids are sure to have a great experience in Adventure Ocean.

Lower cost

If you’re looking for a short weekend getaway, a cruise on Freedom of the Seas can offer a wonderful value. Whereas when booking a hotel on land you must pay extra for food, activities, and transportation, this is all included in your cruise fare on Freedom of the Seas.

Current pricing for a 3-night cruise for 2 adults on Freedom of the Seas runs as low as $652 for an interior room and $896 for a balcony room. Even those looking at the 4-night cruise will encounter fair prices, with interior and balcony rooms for 2 adults as low as $728 and $972 respectively. 

Additionally, those interested in booking a drink package will only have to pay for 3 or 4 days as opposed to a full week, making the drink package more affordable with less risk of getting tired of drinking as the days go on.

As far as shore excursions, one of the days will stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay, where it is easy to enjoy an entire day on the island without paying for anything extra.

Short cruise or long cruise?

Choosing between a short or long cruise will come down to your schedule limitations, budget, and preference.

A clear benefit of a shorter cruise is that less PTO time is required to cruise, meaning it can fit into nearly anyone’s work schedule. Parents will not have to worry about their children missing an entire week of school, either, if booking the 3-night cruise over the weekend.

Shorter cruises also offer just the right length of time for everything to be “new” onboard the ship. You won’t find yourself repeating activities or lounging around in the same spaces many times, as every day brings a chance to try a new restaurant and experience onboard.

A major benefit of taking a longer cruise, though, is that your plane and hotel cost remain the same regardless of cruise length. Spending $300 on airfare to your departure port and $250 on a hotel the night before your cruise can quickly make a short cruise much more expensive per day. If these costs are “spread out” over a 7-night cruise, however, the cost per day is not nearly as high.

In addition, a longer cruise has more time to travel to destinations further away from Florida. Whereas Freedom of the Seas tends to only visit Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay, which are relatively close to Miami, a 7-night cruise may visit destinations like Mexico, St. Thomas, and Puerto Rico.

Which do I prefer? Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend I spent on Freedom of the Seas and found that a 3-night cruise is a nice length for a mini-vacation. If I had to book a Freedom of the Seas cruise again, I would probably choose the 4-night sailing so I would have more time to spend onboard the ship, but the 3-night cruise will fit most passengers' schedules better as it is on the weekend.

While I tend to prefer the more exotic destinations that can be visited on a longer cruise, the atmosphere and energy around the ship on my Freedom of the Seas cruise was one of the best I’ve experienced on a cruise yet and it led to a wonderful weekend getaway.

How Royal Caribbean reimagined its signature Italian restaurant

23 Aug 2021

Italian cuisine is among the most popular kind of cuisines on land or sea, and Royal Caribbean has relaunched one of its most popular specialty restaurants with an all-new menu that features fresh new choices.

Two of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships now offer Giovanni's Italian Kitchen, which is a refresh of Royal Caribbean's Italian specialty restaurant.

Just like how Royal Caribbean looks to evolve and enhance its cruise ships with new things to do, the Food and Beverage team saw an opportunity to improve on Giovanni's Table.

Royal Caribbean Vice President Food & Beverage, Linken D'Souza, said his team looked at how to amplify this particular restaurant, "it was about bringing something fresh, new, but also something that's traditional to our guests."

"We decided to make them younger and fresher and a little bit more contemporary."

"Giovanni's Italian Kitchen came out of that, and it was this opportunity to to introduce some new things, but also keep the favorites that's guests had."

The first thing the team did was not only look at the existing Giovanni's Table menu, but they actually went back to the Italian restaurant concept that has since been retired from the fleet, Portofinos, to identify what did guests like and not like about each of these experiences.

One missing piece they saw was hand-tossed fresh pizza, and immediately they looked at how to bring that option to cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean worked with Renato Viola, who is one of Italy’s best Master Pizza Chefs in the world. 

Before the shutdown, crew members went to Chef Viola's restaurant to spend a week learning how to stretch and perfectly treat the dough, as well as make the recipe.

Royal Caribbean started out with 42 different pizza recipes just to figure out the right dough to use, and then worked on picking out the perfect San Marzano sauce.  The sauce has no added sugar, and relies on a simple recipe of San Marzano tomatoes, water and herbs.

Mr. D'Souza says they are using the highest quality cheese you can get for pizza, and then added hand selected meats and greens to top it all off.

"My inspiration of that quality of pizza was I want to have a pizza that rivals what you would get in Naples."

Mr. D'Souza went as far to say he believes it is the best pizza at sea right now, "We said let's go out and figure out how to make the best and without bragging, I do believe it is the best pizza at sea."

On top of that, Royal Caribbean installed an electric oven that can heat up to 900 degrees, which is essentially the highest temperatures permissible on a ship.

The result? Chef Viola told Mr. D'Souza the pizza is as good as a pizza in his restaurant. Mr. D'Souza thinks that while it's not quite at that level, it is excellent and very good.

The first Giovanni's Italian Kitchen launched on Freedom of the Seas just before the cruise industry shutdown due to the global health crisis, but that ship is sailing again.  In addition, Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar is onboard Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, Odyssey of the Seas.

Giovanni's on Odyssey is an extension of the new restaurant concept, with Giovanni's taking over what used to be the Vintages bar area on other Quantum Class ships and offering a smaller bar menu there, such as fried lasagna bites. These small plates are meant to go really well with a glass of wine.

Mr. D'Souza said they focused a lot on the main menu at the restaurant, "we spend a lot of time really developing American Italian favorites and then going a little bit nontraditional."

Top 3 Giovanni's Italian Kitchen must-try's

Holy Cheesus seven cheese pizza

What should you not-miss when you dine at Giovanni's Italian Kitchen?

I asked Mr. D'Souza for his list of the top three recommendations for anyone trying out the restaurant.

  1. Holy Cheesus seven cheese pizza
  2. Steak Muffuletta
  3. Chocolate raviolis

Calamari & Polenta appetizer

Mr. D'Souza added if someone considers themselves an adventurous eater to try the Calamari & Polenta appetizer and the Truffle & Eggs pizza, which offers a traditional fried egg recipe commonly found in Europe.

"In Europe, you see fried egg on pizza quite often. There's actually restaurants in every pizza they said we'll do a fried egg on it."

Photo tour of new Junior Suite on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas

10 Jul 2021

Junior Suites are a popular room category for the blend of extra space and not over-the-top pricing it affords guests, and on Freedom of the Seas, they added a few new rooms during her refurbishment.

I am a big fan of any new stateroom added during a refurbishment, because these new staterooms are new construction, and they generally get more storage space and a fresher look than rooms that have been part of the ship since the vessel launched.

During Royal Caribbean's recent upgrades as part of the Royal Amplification, new staterooms have been added to ships in places that did not have cabins.  Sure, it adds a little more revenue for the cruise line, but it also offers new cabin choices for guests.

On my Freedom of the Seas cruise in 2021, I booked one of the new staterooms on deck 11, to the left of the Vitality Spa in the forward area of the ship. The nice thing about this location is it is directly adjacent to the Solarium, which makes it very convenient to get to your room from the pool deck.

I stayed in stateroom 1152, which is a Category J3 Junior Suite which can accommodate up to 4 guests.

Despite the name "suite" in the room category, a Junior Suite is more like an extra large balcony than a true suite, but it does offer a lot more living space than you will get in a standard balcony room.

The stateroom measures 299 square feet of living space.

Walking into the room, you can quickly get a sense of the space and notice the fresh look the room has since it is new construction.

The first thing I noticed is just how much storage space there is in this cabin.

Like all Junior Suite rooms, there is a large closet where you can store clothes, hang up garments, and probably stash anything bulky.  

In addition to the closet, there is another full-size closet in the middle of the room, with drawers, dressers, and enough storage space for probably two weeks onboard.

I've noticed with Royal Caribbean's newer cruise ships much more storage space, and that trend has carried forward with its new construction cabins as well.

Another welcome trend is many more outlets, including USB outlets.  The desk area has both.

The bed is a Royal King, which could be converted into two twin beds if need be, along with a large sofa. 

According to Royal Caribbean the sofa can convert into a double bed, although I did not try it out.

Pro tip, there is a USB charger on the side of the phone next to the bed.

The bathroom looks similar to a balcony bathroom, although it has a full tub instead of a stand up shower.

Being a Junior Suite, your balcony is also extra large and it has a nice enclosed space to enjoy.  I prefer this set up because it means there is shade on the balcony during certain times of the day.

The balcony is indeed quite large, with enough space for two lounge chairs, a table, and two chairs. It measures 65 square feet.

You might notice the window washing equipment that was blocking part of the window.  This is a trade off of these new rooms being in a new location.  The washer unit is not always there, but it seemed to be stationed there when not in use.

Personally, I did not mind it since the balcony is wide enough to have most of it unobstructed, although I do not spend that much time on my balcony (especially on a short 3-night sailing).

Frequently asked questions about cruising on Freedom of the Seas from Florida

05 Jul 2021

With Freedom of the Seas sailing from the United States, the state of enthusiasm for cruising's return is matched only by the amount of questions people have about what it is like to be onboard.

I shared my first look at what it is like to cruise on Freedom of the Seas, but I wanted to answer as many questions as possible from RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers on our Facebook page.

Keep in mind the protocols and requirements for cruises on Freedom from Miami in July may be different for other months and/or ships.

Do they still have the buffet?

Yes, the Windjammer Buffet is open for breakfast and lunch (not for dinner until they start allowing more guests onboard).

There are two major differences to the Windjammer:

  1. The staff serves you the food
  2. A crew member scans your SeaPass card when you come in because there is a limit to how many people can be in the Windjammer. If they reached that limit, they would turn guests away until it changes. Alternatively, you could make a reservation.
    1. So far, reservations have not been necessary with the small amount of guests on this sailing.

What are the rules for Adventure Ocean? Reservations? How many hours do you get per child?

There is limited capacity for every Adventure Ocean session, which means parents need to sign up their kids for a time slot.

Unlike on Adventure of the Seas where they give you hours to use, on Freedom, parents get a 4 sessions per sailing to book once onboard. The idea is to give everyone an equal opportunity to get time for their child.

Kids must wear masks while in Adventure Ocean.

How are they distinguishing being the vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers?

Vaccinated guests are given a wristband to wear around the ship, while unvaccinated guests have no wristband and get a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

You can read about how someone that is vaccinated can volunteer to disclose they are vaccinated.

If you have an unvaccinated child under 12 with you can they come with us into the vaccinated areas if all the adults are vaccinated?

No, since they are unvaccinated, you would have to follow the unvaccinated rules for designated venues that are off limits to unvaccinated guests.

Of course, when the child(ren) is not with you, you could go to any vaccinated space.

What percentage of the time are passengers forced to wear masks. 

Indoors, all guests (vaccinated or not) wear masks in public areas unless they are:

  1. In their stateroom
  2. Fully vaccinated and in a designated vaccinated area
  3. Sitting and actively eating or drinking

No guests have to wear a mask outdoors, such as on the pool deck.

For a vaccinated passenger, that basically means you are wearing a mask when walking around inside.  In practice, when you get to where you are going (restaurant, lounge, other venue), you can usually remove your mask.

Are the crew still wearing masks?


We have been assigned a 1:00 check-in for a Jr Suite. Can we arrive early and go to the lounge, or do we need to stick to the 1:00 sharp check-in time?

They are still being very strict about the check-in times and enforcing them in order to ensure the terminal does not get overcrowded.

Per Royal Caribbean, there are no pre-arrival lounges to use, so plan to arrive at your designated check-in time.

Does the stateroom attendant still come in twice a day? If so, do they wear gloves and change them out?

Yes, there is still daily stateroom service and turndown service each evening.

I don't believe they are wearing gloves, but crew members practice a great deal of personal hygiene, including rigorous hand sanitization.

Do you "feel" the differences, pre-Covid vs. now?

The major differences that I feel are the lack of crowds due to limited capacity, and face mask requirements.

Overall, the cruise experience retains that fun feel it had before things shutdown, which means it still feels like you are on a cruise. The core elements are all still there.

Just like on land, there are some adjustments we have all made to adhere to new health requirements.

Since my wife doesn't drink alcohol can she give me her 4 Diamond drinks?

Yes, you just need your wife's SeaPass card to do that.  

Can unvaccinated children under 12 eat in specialty dining with vaccinated adults?

Yes, but with two exceptions:

  • Chef's Table
  • Izumi Hibachi

Do you think the Windjammer will re-open for dinner? 

Yes, Royal Caribbean executives have said it will re-open for dinner once there are more passengers onboard.

It is not quite clear yet what threshold the limited capacity onboard would have to reach, but it seems to be at least 50% occupancy.

Do they have extra masks when you go inside?

There are not masks available to pick up as you walk inside the ship from an outside area, but Royal Caribbean does have disposable masks they give you in your room on the first day.

It is primarily your responsibility to pack enough masks for your sailing.

Do you still leave cash tips at bars or are they attempting to be cashless?

Cash tips are still permitted.

How are they monitoring the masks?

Crew members will politely remind guests to put on or fix their mask if they notice a passenger not wearing one. Quite often it is a case of forgetting to put the mask back on after being outdoors.

Are the lounge chairs around the pool spaced further apart?

Yes, to some extent they are spaced a bit further apart than before. It looks like they don't mind chairs within a traveling party to be together, but other groups to have some space.

Can the WOW bands be used on Freedom of the Seas?

No, Royal Caribbean did not extend WOW band support to Freedom.

A look around the big changes on Freedom of the Seas

03 Jul 2021

The last Royal Caribbean cruise ship to get upgrades as part of the Royal Amplified program, and I got a chance to check out the changes firsthand.

Right before the cruise industry shutdown, Freedom of the Seas received a $116 million upgrade with new features and amenities.

Freedom had just one sailing with guests before everything shutdown, so most of the changes were not highlighted very much. 

With Freedom of the Seas being the first cruise ship from Royal Caribbean to restart sailings in the United States, we have a chance to look at all the changes.

Whenever a cruise ship gets an upgrade, the pool deck always gets the most noticeable changes because of how prominent and popular these new offerings are.

Royal Caribbean added the Perfect Storm duo of high-speed water slides to the back of the ship.

Not only did the waterslides get added, but the entire pool deck was revamped with a resort-style Caribbean poolscape.

This concept was first rolled out on Navigator and Oasis of the Seas, and it updates the look and feel of the pool deck.

The Lime and Coconut is a major part of the pool deck,with a multi-deck lounge and bar scene to enjoy.

The H2O Zone was also replaced with Splashway Bay aquapark.

Boleros is not new to Freedom of the Seas, but the look has been updated.

Right next door is a massive Playmakers space, which where the old photo gallery area.

Having been to many Playmakers locations, this one is enormous, with ample seating, and likely more televisions than people.

There are also a lot of new dining venues on Freedom of the Seas, including the cruise line’s first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, Izumi Hibachi & Sushi, and El Loco Fresh.

Here are some other photos from around Freedom to enjoy.

Freedom of the Seas is offering 3-night weekend and 4-night weekday summer cruises from Miami.

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

29 Jun 2021

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.

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

28 Jun 2021

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.

Freedom of the Seas successfully completes test cruise

22 Jun 2021

Following a two-night cruise, Freedom of the Seas has completed a test cruise under the supervision of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC).

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley celebrated the completion of the mandated test sailing in a social media post on Tuesday.

"Today Freedom of the Seas returned to Terminal A, Port of Miami after completing its 3 day, 2 night simulated voyage to Perfect Day at Coco Cay."

"Huge Thank you to our Operations team and all our crew! Onwards and upwards!"

He added that the CDC was part of the test cruise experience, and that the experience went well, "The CDC sailed with us ! Wrap up meeting this morning and looks like all is good."

According to Mr. Bayley, Royal Caribbean is now waiting for feedback from the CDC following the test voyage.

Freedom of the Seas is scheduled to sail from PortMiami on July 2, which would be the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to resume operations from the United States.

In addition, he added Royal Caribbean will shoot off fireworks on its first sailing when Freedom visits Perfect Day at CocoCay on July 4th.

Freedom of the Seas is the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to conduct and complete her test cruises.

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 on Freedom of the Seas are fully vaccinated as well.

These test cruises are conducted with unpaid volunteers, per the CDC's requirements.

First Royal Caribbean test cruise should begin today

20 Jun 2021

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.

Royal Caribbean releases health protocols for first U.S. cruise ship sailing

17 Jun 2021

Royal Caribbean has announced to guests booked on its first cruise ship to restart cruises from the U.S. what health protocols and requirements they can expect.

Currently, this information only pertains to Freedom of the Seas sailings out of Miami in July 2021.

Freedom of the Seas will restart cruises from Miami with short sailings to The Bahamas.

The new protocols cover vaccinations, testing, masks and more.


As previously stated, Royal Caribbean recommends all guests 16 and older be fully vaccinated.

At check-in, guests will be asked to provide documentation of their vaccination, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card. Those who are 16 and older and do not have or are unable to provide documentation will be considered unvaccinated.

Unvaccinated guests must undergo additional COVID-19 testing at their own expense, and follow the health protocols described below, which are based on guidance from the CDC.

Someone that does not wish to undergo or pay for additional testing, or adhere to these health and safety protocols, can ask for a refund.


All unvaccinated guests must undergo multiple COVID-19 tests.

Testing at the terminal prior to embarkation and onboard prior to disembarkation will be conducted by licensed and accredited third-party testing providers we have contracted.

Unvaccinated guests must register for this testing and agree to the third-party testing provider terms and conditions. Registration details will be sent via email in advance.

The total charge from the third-party testing vendor for these tests is $136. This amount will be applied to the guest’s onboard expense account.

Royal Caribbean will pay the testing vendor(s) on the guest’s behalf and will not retain any part of the testing costs.

For children not yet eligible to be vaccinated, we will cover the cost of any required testing.

Here are the testing requirements for unvaccinated guests during the cruise:


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.

At the Terminal  

Unvaccinated guests 2 years of age and older are required to take an RT-PCR test when checking in at the terminal, which will be administered by one of our testing vendors. Registration details will be sent via email in advance.

Prior to Disembarking  

While onboard, unvaccinated guests 2 years of age and older will be required to undergo antigen testing within 24 hours of disembarking at the end of the voyage.

This test will be conducted the day before the cruise ends by one of our testing vendors. Guests will be notified onboard about how to register for this test.

Face Masks

Unlike Adventure of the Seas from The Bahamas, face masks will be required by guests in certain situations onboard.

Vaccinated and unvaccinated guests are required to wear masks indoors unless:

  • Seated and actively eating or drinking
  • Masks are not required in your stateroom when you are with your traveling party, outdoors, or at Perfect Day at CocoCay, unless in a crowded setting
  • Guests under the age of 2 do not need to wear a mask

Royal Caribbean said they are expecting updated guidance from the CDC on mask policies for vaccinated guests and will provide an update.

Vaccinated venues

Royal Caribbean will designate certain venues (bars, lounges, restaurants and entertainment) or events as only for vaccinated guests only. At those locations, masks wont be required.

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.

For unvaccinated guests, there will still be entertainment and options open to them, but there will be some options, such as late night entertainment, for vaccinated guests.  

Select showtimes will be for vaccinated guests and others for vaccinated and unvaccinated guests.

In the Main Dining Room, there will be designated areas for vaccinated and unvaccinated reservations to dine separately.

My Time Dining will not be available to unvaccinated guests. 

Physical Distancing

Venues will be set up with proper spacing and Royal Caribbean asks guests to abide by physical distancing, especially when interacting with those outside of your traveling party.

Shore Excursions

All guests are subject to restrictions and requirements as defined by local authorities in the ports we visit. Details will be provided onboard.

According to the cruise line, it is reasonable to expect that unvaccinated guests will be subject to stricter protocols than vaccinated guests. 

Full protocols

Here is the letter Royal Caribbean has sent to its guests booked on the ship.

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