Cruise lines in the United States aren’t able to sail U.S. waters with passengers, but they could be allowed soon if they rehearse passenger voyages with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety protocols in place. In the first public effort to acquire potential passengers for those mock cruises, Royal Caribbean International is now seeking volunteers older than 18.
Royal Caribbean has created a Volunteer of the Seas sign-up form for interested cruisers to apply to participate on future mock voyages. A Facebook group dedicated to updates on the mock cruises was created Wednesday night, and more than 10,000 people had joined by 12:30 p.m. the next day.
No timeline has been set for the simulated cruises, but Royal Caribbean said cruisers eager to return to the high seas have been reaching out en masse to inquire about volunteering for the CDC-required mock voyages. The cruise line said via email on Thursday that it had received more than “5,000 emails, not including tweets, comments and messages across social media” this week before the form was created.
What the mock cruises will look like remains unclear. Royal Caribbean said via email: “We are still reviewing the CDC framework and do not have details on our simulated sailings.
“While we review the requirements proposed by the CDC and consider when we can host our simulated trial sailings, we are gathering information from those who have shown interest on our Facebook group and will be in touch with them when we have more details,” Royal Caribbean said in the email. “Our priority is to ensure that we can exercise our comprehensive set of measures in a safe and healthy manner while making sure we provide a memorable vacation experience.”
The CDC announced on Oct. 30 that a four-phase approach to restarting limited cruises in the United States could begin, replacing its no-sail order with a “conditional sailing” framework to return to passenger voyages. The first phase began Nov. 1 with cruise ships establishing coronavirus testing of all crew, who are the only people allowed onboard. Phase 2, for which the CDC said there is no timeline, would allow ships to begin “simulated voyages designed to test a cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate covid-19 on cruise ships.” Phase 3 requires certification by the CDC, and the final, fourth phase is a “return to passenger voyages in a manner that mitigates the risk of covid-19 introduction, transmission, or spread among passengers and crew onboard ships and communities.”
The CDC-required simulations aim “to ensure adequate safety and health protocols through a series of mock voyages with volunteers who will play the role of passengers,” Martin Cetron, the CDC director for the division of global migration and quarantine, told The Post when the CDC lifted its no-sail order.
“We have a lot of details to work out to make sure everyone’s experience onboard is as safe and as enjoyable as we can make it,” Royal Caribbean said. “So, while we currently have no dates to announce yet we are excited about the interest we have received so far — we can’t wait to finally welcome our guests back on board.”