(Noon EDT) -- After more than a year without cruising in the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean will return to the seas in June, offering sailings to the Bahamas and Mexico on Adventure of the Seas.
The ship will sail a series of seven-night roundtrip cruises from Nassau starting June 12 through August. The itinerary will stop at Grand Bahama Island and include two days at the cruise line's private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Cruises are open only to passengers who can show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and those under 18 who have negative test results. All crew onboard will be vaccinated as well.
"We are excited to get back to delivering memorable vacations in the Caribbean, gradually and safely," President and CEO of Royal Caribbean International Michael Bayley said in a news release. "The vaccines are clearly a game changer for all of us, and with the number of vaccinations and their impact growing rapidly, we believe starting with cruises for vaccinated adult guests and crew is the right choice. As we move forward, we expect this requirement and other measures will inevitably evolve over time."
"The opportunity to homeport in The Bahamas is a testament to the tremendous partners the government and the people of the island nation have been to us for more than 50 years. We are grateful for the confidence that they have in us and our commitment to a healthy and happy return to sailing."
The news comes within hours of sister brand Celebrity's announcement that it will return to sailing June 5 from St. Maarten. The two companies are the first big-ship cruise lines to announce a return to sailings in the Caribbean, the most popular destination among North American cruisers.
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Cruise lines sailing from the United States and its homeports, including major hubs Miami and Fort Lauderdale, haven’t been able to sail since March 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued various versions of no-sail orders that have kept the industry from sailing.
While cruise lines continue to work with the CDC on a return from the U.S., alternative homeports -- like Nassau -- are emerging as an effective option for a safe and more immediate return. (Last week, luxury cruise line Crystal announced it would sail from Nassau and Bimini starting in July.)
Royal Caribbean has said it hasn’t yet decided whether additional health and safety measures, like mask-wearing, social distancing and ship-sponsored excursions will be required, but Chief Marketing Officer Jim Berra said those types of actions are "in the consideration set."
Adventure of the Seas, which holds 3,114 passengers at double-occupancy, initially will sail at about 50 percent to 60 percent full.
The cruise line also says it will "follow the science" as well as whatever requirements are in place in the Bahamas, which currently require a travel health visa and negative PCR test taken five days before arrival.
Additionally, negative PCR tests might be required for passengers to return to their home country. (Negative test results are currently required to get back into the United States.) Berra said the cruise line will help facilitate additional requirements.
And while Royal expects most passengers will come from the U.S., the cruises are open to guests from any country approved by the Bahamas.
"As we anticipate a promising return to a vibrant tourism industry, news that the cruise industry is going to begin homeporting in The Bahamas is exciting. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of passengers will experience Nassau or Grand Bahama in ways they never had the opportunity to before," Hubert A. Minnis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, said in a news release.
"I am especially pleased that Royal Caribbean, with whom we have had a long and mutually beneficial relationship for more than 50 years, selected The Bahamas as a homeport when sailing resumes. This is truly a new day for tourism. It should inspire many small- to medium-sized businesses, tour operators, taxi drivers, restaurants and retailers to prepare for brighter days ahead, the best we have ever had."
Even with COVID-19 requirements in place, Royal Caribbean says it will deliver on its promise of fun.
"Our job is to bring joy to our guests, and so we do need to strike the balance between having the right protocols to keep everyone healthy and safe but still delivering an unbelievable vacation," Berra told Cruise Critic exclusively. "We're incredibly confident we can do that."
Adventure of the Seas debuted in 2001 and was completely refurbished in 2018, with elements added including a FlowRider surf simulator, waterslides and a kids play park. It includes some of the lines signature restaurants, like Chops Grille and Izumi.
"We thought it was the perfect ship for this market," Berra said. "We're obviously looking at other deployments over time and other ships, and so Adventure of the Seas was really the right size and the right first ship to bring back into the market."
The addition of Perfect Day at CocoCay on these sailings is an exciting one for many cruisers; Royal Caribbean recently invested more than $250 million in its private island, adding a huge waterpark (including the tallest waterslide in North America), new beach areas, a zipline, cabanas and more. By spending two days at the private island, where Royal Caribbean controls all aspects of the guest experience, the cruise line can ensure a travel bubble is maintained.
Cruises also will stop in Cozumel, Mexico, a staple -- and fan favorite -- on many Western Caribbean Cruise itineraries.
Royal Caribbean has returned to sailing in Singapore onboard Quantum of the Seas, with voyages for Singapore citizens only. It also has announced it will send brand-new Odyssey of the Seas to Israel, where it will sail a short inaugural season from May to October 2021.
The itineraries go on sail starting March 24. For more information on Royal Caribbean's commitment to healthy sailing, visit Royal Caribbean's site.