(10 a.m. EDT) – Attention, Volunteers of the Seas – your time has come.
Royal Caribbean sent out an email to all people who expressed interest in taking part in a test cruise on Thursday morning, noting that the time has come for them to register to enter.
The entry period began at 12:01 a.m. early Friday morning and will close at midnight. Go to www.volunteersofthesea.com to enter.
In the email, the line said that it will giving away 1,125 test sailings on various Royal Caribbean ships. The prize is for the cruise only, for two people, and excludes transportation to and from the ship, as well as hotel accommodations.
Winners also must be able to travel on the sailing that they win, regardless of whether they live near the port or not. The upcoming test cruises that will be taking winners include a two-night cruise on Mariner of the Seas, leaving August 11 from Port Canaveral; a six-night cruise on Oasis of the Seas, leaving August 22 from Bayonne, New Jersey; and a four-night cruise on Liberty of the Seas, leaving September 18 from Galveston.
Royal Caribbean, which said that it received over 350,000 entries when it first said that it would take volunteers on simulated sailings, is giving its most loyal customers an advantage.
Members of the Crown & Anchor Society will automatically receive additional entries, so people will only have to enter once. Pinnacle members will get 11 additional tries; Diamond Plus, 9 additional entries; 7 for Diamond; 5 for Emerald; 3 for Platinum and one for Gold.
If you don't have a high loyalty level, don’t fret. Everyone, regardless of status, can enter up to 12 times.
Volunteers must be 18 years old and be vaccinated. Vaccine cards will be required to be shown at the ports.
What else should you expect on a test cruise? While these simulated sailings are required by the Centers for U.S. Disease Control and Prevention to make sure that cruise lines carrying more than 5 percent of unvaccinated passengers have thorough health and safety protocols, the actual sailings seem just like a normal – albeit quieter – cruise.
On our Allure of the Seas test cruise on July 27, nothing seemed really different from a current cruise, save that there were only 667 passengers onboard a vessel built for eight times as many people.
Even though all passengers are vaccinated, expect onboard protocols for a ship that takes unvaccinated children and passengers. That means that you'll wear your mask in all public areas of the ship, and when walking to and from your cabin to many venues, as well as at embarkation and debarkation. You will not have to wear your mask outside, while eating or drinking or in areas that have been set aside solely for vaccinated passengers.
You will also have to follow mask guidelines in any ports that you visit. Masks are currently not required at Perfect Day at CocoCay, but other countries have different regulations, with most requiring masks.
We did receive a few perks, including half-priced drinks, discounts at specialty restaurants and free waterpark admission at Perfect Day at CocoCay. While some passengers were chosen to play "unvaccinated" guests, these positions were chosen randomly before boarding; if you're not chosen, you go about the ship as normal.
On our sailing, the CDC wasn't even onboard. We were told by the agency that the inspectors do attend every voyages and that "after action" reports with lessons learned are submitted by the ship operators to the CDC before final approval to sail is given.