• Cheers to 25 years: Celebrate with Us!
  • Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Log In
  • Find a Cruise
  • Deals
  • Excursions
  • More
You may also like
Dismiss
More Cruises Coming! Additional Test and Revenue Sailings Approved By The CDC
Royal Caribbean Runs First Test Cruise From Miami On Freedom of the Seas
Exterior on Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Runs First Test Cruise From Miami On Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Runs First Test Cruise From Miami On Freedom of the Seas
Exterior on Freedom of the Seas

June 21, 2021

Chris Gray Faust
Managing Editor
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter

(1:55 p.m. EDT) -- Royal Caribbean started its first test cruise out of PortMiami on Sunday, sending Freedom of the Seas on a simulated voyage to run through the necessary protocols to resume sailing from a U.S. homeport, as mandated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention..

Freedom of the Seas left PortMiami at 7 p.m. June 20, with 600 passengers onboard, as well as CDC officials. The volunteers were all Royal Caribbean employees, and everyone onboard the vessel is vaccinated, as well as the crew, a line spokesperson said.

Royal Caribbean President Michael Bayley posted about the test cruises on his Facebook page:

"A requirement is that U.S-based ships conduct simulation cruises to test health and safety protocols if the cruise line expects to return to sailing with under 95% vaccinated guests or crew.

As a family brand, Royal Caribbean typically sails with 10 percent of our guests under 12 years old, and today, they are ineligible for the vaccine. We are committed to continuing to deliver memorable vacations to families and that is why we are conducting simulated cruises."

The two-night simulated sailing docked alongside is at the line's private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, today until 5 p.m. The island received its first cruise passengers since the pandemic began last week, when Adventure of the Seas made a two-day port stop.

Featured Videos

Freedom of the Seas: What's It Like Onboard a Test Cruise? (Cruise Critic & Royal Caribbean Blog

Freedom of the Seas: What's It Like Onboard a Test Cruise? (Cruise Critic & Royal Caribbean Blog

Freedom Of The Seas Resumes Sailing With New Rules

Freedom Of The Seas Resumes Sailing With New Rules

Oasis Of The Seas Ship Tour - Ship Exterior

Oasis Of The Seas Ship Tour - Ship Exterior

Here's What We Packed For Our Royal Caribbean Cruise (June 2021)

Here's What We Packed For Our Royal Caribbean Cruise (June 2021)

Celebrity to Restart from U.S. Homeport, PLUS Royal Caribbean Given Green Light for Test Cruises! (VIDEO)

Celebrity to Restart from U.S. Homeport, PLUS Royal Caribbean Given Green Light for Test Cruises! (VIDEO)

Odyssey of the Seas -- From Steel Cutting to Delivery 2021

Odyssey of the Seas -- From Steel Cutting to Delivery 2021

Video Of Odyssey Of The Seas Conveyance March 2021

Video Of Odyssey Of The Seas Conveyance March 2021

Video: Royal Caribbean Group Announces E-muster, Keyless Cabin Check-in And Other App Improvements

Video: Royal Caribbean Group Announces E-muster, Keyless Cabin Check-in And Other App Improvements

Royal Caribbean Odyssey Of The Seas Steel Cutting At Meyer Werft

Royal Caribbean Odyssey Of The Seas Steel Cutting At Meyer Werft

Shipyard Tour: Royal Caribbean’s Symphony Of The Seas Gets Its Finishing Touches -- Video

Shipyard Tour: Royal Caribbean’s Symphony Of The Seas Gets Its Finishing Touches -- Video

Harmony Of The Seas Video Tour – Inside Look At One Of Royal Caribbean’s Most Popular Cruise Ships

Harmony Of The Seas Video Tour – Inside Look At One Of Royal Caribbean’s Most Popular Cruise Ships

Symphony Of The Seas Video Tour

Symphony Of The Seas Video Tour

Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum Of The Seas Celebrates Keel Laying

Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum Of The Seas Celebrates Keel Laying

Sea Beyond: An Innovative Cruise Experience By Royal Caribbean

Sea Beyond: An Innovative Cruise Experience By Royal Caribbean

Sneak Peak At Symphony Of The Seas

Sneak Peak At Symphony Of The Seas

What’s Your Size? Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class Vs. Majesty Of The Seas - Video

What’s Your Size? Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class Vs. Majesty Of The Seas - Video

Royal Caribbean's Oasis Of The Seas Highlights

Royal Caribbean's Oasis Of The Seas Highlights

Spectrum Of The Seas Steel Cutting At Meyer Werft

Spectrum Of The Seas Steel Cutting At Meyer Werft

Royal Caribbean's Enchantment Of The Seas Highlights

Royal Caribbean's Enchantment Of The Seas Highlights

Harvest Caye Cruise Port Video Tour

Harvest Caye Cruise Port Video Tour

Photo Tour of Royal Caribbean's Allure Of The Seas

Photo Tour of Royal Caribbean's Allure Of The Seas

What It Means To Be Loyal To Royal

What It Means To Be Loyal To Royal

7 Can’t-Miss Experiences on Allure Of The Seas

7 Can’t-Miss Experiences on Allure Of The Seas

Video Tour of Allure Of The Seas' Bars

Video Tour of Allure Of The Seas' Bars

Cruise Pier Runners In Cozumel -- Carnival Liberty

Cruise Pier Runners In Cozumel -- Carnival Liberty

Harmony Of The Seas Youth Place

Harmony Of The Seas Youth Place

Harmony Of The Seas Pool And Sports Zone

Harmony Of The Seas Pool And Sports Zone

Harmony Of The Seas Central Park On Royal Caribbean International

Harmony Of The Seas Central Park On Royal Caribbean International

Harmony Of The Seas Boardwalk

Harmony Of The Seas Boardwalk

Harmony Of The Seas Entertainment Place

Harmony Of The Seas Entertainment Place

Harmony Of The Seas Royal Promenade

Harmony Of The Seas Royal Promenade

Harmony Of The Seas Vitality Spa And Fitness Center

Harmony Of The Seas Vitality Spa And Fitness Center

Perfect Storm Water Slides On Harmony Of The Seas

Perfect Storm Water Slides On Harmony Of The Seas

Cruise Critic Tours Harmony Of The Seas

Cruise Critic Tours Harmony Of The Seas

Harmony Of The Seas Cabins - Video Tour - Cruise Critic

Harmony Of The Seas Cabins - Video Tour - Cruise Critic

Cruise Critic Tours Harmony Of The Seas

Cruise Critic Tours Harmony Of The Seas

Greased Lightnin': Royal Caribbean Brings Another Broadway Hit

Greased Lightnin': Royal Caribbean Brings Another Broadway Hit

Plunging Into Adventure On The Tallest Slide At Sea: Royal Caribbean Reveals 10-Story Ultimate Abyss

Plunging Into Adventure On The Tallest Slide At Sea: Royal Caribbean Reveals 10-Story Ultimate Abyss

Cruise Critic Flowrider On Royal Caribbean's Freedom Of The Seas

Cruise Critic Flowrider On Royal Caribbean's Freedom Of The Seas

Cruise Critic Tours Anthem of the Seas

Cruise Critic Tours Anthem of the Seas

Anthem Of The Seas Welcomes Gigi The Giraffe

Anthem Of The Seas Welcomes Gigi The Giraffe

Oasis Of The Seas Flowrider - Cruise Critic Goes Surfing

Oasis Of The Seas Flowrider - Cruise Critic Goes Surfing

Oasis Of The Seas Jazz On 4 Performance

Oasis Of The Seas Jazz On 4 Performance

Oasis Of The Seas Royal Promenade (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Royal Promenade (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Royal Promenade Parade (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Royal Promenade Parade (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Carousel In Action (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Carousel In Action (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Ship Tour -- Main Dining Room (2009)

Oasis Of The Seas Ship Tour -- Main Dining Room (2009)

The ship will arrive back at PortMiami on Tuesday at 6 a.m. If all goes well and the ship is approved for revenue cruises by the CDC, the first Freedom of the Seas sailing with revenue passengers will take place on July 2, 2021.

Ship-Specific Protocols Being Tested

The Main Pool on Freedom of the Seas

During the simulated cruise, Royal Caribbean will run through the protocols it outlined for Freedom of the Seas last week, which include different procedures for guests who are vaccinated and those who are not, the line said.

Volunteers on the test cruise have been identified to play different roles onboard, Cruise Critic was told.

Because the state of Florida does not allow businesses to ask for proof of a COVID-19 vaccine, Royal Caribbean has made the act voluntary – and there are incentives to being vaccinated.

If you voluntarily show your vaccine card when you board, you are allowed to skip COVID-19 testing, and you are issued a wristband that identifies you as vaccinated. Vaccinated passengers onboard will have areas of the ship where they can be with other vaccinated guests, and take off their masks.

Select showtimes in the entertainment venues will be offered for vaccinated passengers only. Similarly, meals in the ship's main dining room will be set up so vaccinated passengers and unvaccinated passengers can eat separately. MyTime dining is not open for unvaccinated passengers. Passengers will need to carry their SeaPass with them for access to most venues.

Passengers who are unvaccinated, and are eligible to do so; or people who decline to present proof of vaccination will be considered unvaccinated and must undergo extensive COVID-19 testing, with as many as three tests required before and during their cruise.

First, passengers must present documentation of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days before boarding. A second PCR test is taken at the terminal as they embark. Finally, passengers will have to take a PCR test before they disembark at the end of the voyage. They must pay for their own tests, which are $136 per person for the trio. Children who are not able to be vaccinated will not pay these fees, and the testing requirements do not apply to those under two years old.

Passengers who decline to show proof of vaccination will have a hole punched in their SeaPass card.

Because the ship could be carrying a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers, guests will need to wear masks onboard when they are outside their cabins, or not seated in a bar or restaurant eating or drinking. Vaccinated passengers will not need to wear masks in the venues that are open just for them, however.

These protocols are limited at this time to Freedom of the Seas; Royal Caribbean has yet to announce regulations for other U.S. sailings.

What Else Is Being Tested?

Boarding Area on Jewel of the Seas

In its Conditional Sail Order, the CDC outlines a slew of other things that it wants to observe in operation. Among them:

  • Proof of social distancing measures
  • Embarkation and debarkation procedures, including check in at the terminal
  • Seating and meal service in different dining and entertainment areas.
  • Procedures for isolating and handling passengers or crew who either have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for the virus, both onboard and what would happen shoreside. The agency also wants to observe medical evacuation procedures.
  • Policies for other areas of the ship, including the casino, spa, the fitness center and other sports activities onboard.
  • Private island and port shore excursions.

Given that Royal Caribbean has already been operating in countries outside CDC oversight, such as The Bahamas and Singapore – and what we personally observed on Adventure of the Seas last week -- the line has all of these protocols mostly figured out.

Does The Florida Lawsuit Win Affect Future Test Cruises?

Exterior on Freedom of the Seas

The Freedom of the Seas test cruise is the first of several that Royal Caribbean has scheduled within its fleet.

Now that Odyssey of the Seas has been delayed until August, the next approved test cruise is for Serenade of the Seas, in Alaska, from July 7 to July 11. If that test cruise goes well, the ship is scheduled to be the first ship to return to Alaska since the pandemic began, on July 19.

What has yet to be known if whether the state of Florida's win in a federal lawsuit against the CDC will change the need for test cruises, at least in the Sunshine State. Allure of the Seas is scheduled for a test cruise from Port Canaveral on July 27 through July 29.

In his ruling, the judge said that the CDC overstepped its regulatory authority with the Conditional Sailing Order. The agency has until July 2 to submit new regulations that are more in line with current science regarding COVID-19 and vaccines. If the judge opts not to approve the new regulations, the CSO will become guidelines, as opposed to requirements. 

While cruise lines are almost certain to continue many of the protocols they have developed, test cruises could become a step that either falls away or cruise lines adopt simply as a "shake down" sailing.

Until July 18, however, test cruises are a de-facto requirement for cruise lines to continue their U.S. restart.

How was this article?

Featured News

1
Carnival Cruise News: Hot New Ship Mardi Gras Sets Sail, First Cruise To Resume From Port Canaveral
5
Royal Caribbean Cruise News: Proof of Negative COVID-19 Test Now Required For All Passengers At Embarkation
Want to cruise smarter?
Get expert advice, insider tips and more.
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.