A "voluntary voyage"/test cruise departed from PortMiami Florida on Sunday evening, June 20, putting the industry a step closer to resuming operations from the USA's ports, 15 months after the COVID crisis brought cruises to a halt worldwide.
RCI-Royal Caribbean International's liner Freedom of the Seas departed PortMiami at 7 PM, with ~600 employee volunteers to test COVID health & safety measures before the vessel restarts with paying passengers.
All volunteers are vaccinated, RCI revealed, and there is a CDC representative onboard.
A trial/voluntary voyage is one of two paths for a ship to resume regular passenger shipping operations, according to the CDC's requirements. A liner may either opt to perform a test cruise or agree to sail with almost all fully vaccinated guests and crew (95% for both).
Vaccines are strongly recommended for ex-Florida cruises and "unvaccinated guests must undergo additional COVID-19 testing at their own expense," the cruise line's website states.
While in Florida RCI is not requiring guests to be vaccinated, those sailing on upcoming journeys to Alaska (from homeport Seattle WA) will have to meet a vaccination requirement.
Several other lines have announced plans to sail from Florida during the summer months with vaccination requirements in line with the CDC's criterion. The first cruise with paying guests is currently scheduled to depart from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) on June 26 aboard Celebrity Cruises' ship Celebrity Edge, with 95% of all passengers and crew vaccinated.
Sunday's inaugural trial cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas will last 2 nights with a call at Royal Caribbean's private Bahamian island CocoCay.