A trial cruise filled with about 600 vaccinated passengers departed from Miami on Sunday evening. The cruise will span two nights, and the ship will dock at CocoCay in the Bahamas.
Cruises with volunteer passengers are intended to help pave the way for cruise operations to return to normal in the U.S., as they’ll help cruise lines test the efficacy of COVID-19 health and safety measures. Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas set sail from PortMiami at 7 p.m. on Sunday with a representative from the CDC on board.
Under the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, a trial cruise is one of two options for a cruise ship to resume sailing. The agency said last month that a ship can either perform a trial cruise or agree to set sail with almost all fully vaccinated passengers and crew -- 95% for both groups.
Vaccines strongly recommended
The entire cruise industry was forced to halt operations for about 15 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Royal Caribbean officials said the two-day voyage will serve as a way to observe quote “multi-layered health and safety measures” put in place by the CDC.
Earlier this month, Royal Caribbean announced that two passengers aboard another trial cruise tested positive for COVID-19. The passengers were asymptomatic. The company said it isolated the individuals and had them monitored by medical professionals. All close contacts of the individuals were also tested.
“This situation demonstrates that our rigorous health and safety protocols work to protect our crew, guests and the communities we visit,” the cruise company said at the time.
Royal Caribbean recently updated its website to state that vaccinations are strongly recommended for Florida sailings and "unvaccinated guests must undergo additional COVID-19 testing at their own expense.”
"We do strongly recommend all the guests be vaccinated for sure for those who are eligible, but we have measures in place to keep the cruises safe," said Patrik Dahlgren, senior vice president of global marine operations for Royal Caribbean Group.