Symphony of the Seas — the largest cruise ship in the world — has been granted approval by the CDC to sail a simulated voyage on the path to return. The voyage is set to sail August 1-3 from Miami, according a Facebook post from Royal Caribbean CEO, Michael Bayley.
In addition, Allure of the Seas — a sister ship to Symphony — is also scheduled to sail July 27-29 from Port Canaveral.
These cruises come in addition to a previously announced cruise aboard Freedom of the Seas departing June 20-22.
It’s not yet known how many passengers will sail on these volunteer cruises. Symphony of the Seas can hold up to 6,680 guests and 2,200 crew. However, many lines have mentioned sailing at limited capacity at first.
The CDC requires just 10% of the expected capacity as passengers on the simulated voyages. So if Symphony of the Seas plans to carry a maximum of, say, 3,000 passengers on regular cruises, it would only need 300 passengers to sail on the test cruise.
Test Cruises Announced With More Frequency
Simulated voyages are required by the CDC if a cruise ship plans to sail with less than 95% of passengers vaccinated. It gives the cruise line and the health agency a chance to implement and practice new protocols before paying passengers board the ship.
Notably, cruise lines can skip the test cruises if they plan to sail with nearly everyone on the ship having the shot.
In recent days there has been a flurry of simulated voyages announced, including other lines like Disney and Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line. With every cruise ship that sails with unvaccinated passengers (including kids) required to sail these voyages, we expect many more announcements in the coming days and weeks.
These trips are required to be similar to what will be seen on a normal cruise. So passengers can expect to do things like lounge by the pool, hit the bar, eat in restaurants, and play in the casino. All aspects of the cruise experience need to be tested in light of the new “normal” following COVID.
Only passengers over 18 years old are allowed to sail, and they must either be vaccinated, or certify that they have no conditions that put them at higher risk of complication from the virus. For more on being a volunteer passenger on a test cruise, see our article here.
Florida Law May Require The Slower Path to Return
What else is notable is that both of these cruises will sail from Florida. Currently there is a law in place in the state that says companies cannot require proof of vaccination from its customers. In other words, if a cruise line wants to sail with only vaccinated passengers, it can’t ask for proof to meet that requirement.
Meanwhile, the first vaccinated cruise aboard Celebrity Edge is set to sail from Fort Lauderdale in late June. But unless there is some sort of compromise reached, the only way for ships to sail from the state is for no vaccine to be required.
That means the first CDC-approved trips in June may be in jeopardy, but cruise ships taking the path of not requiring vaccines and instead sailing test cruises first — such as Symphony of the Seas is doing– would be ok to sail, albeit much later in the season.
While it’s yet to be seen how the drama between the CDC, Florida, and cruise lines will play out, it is undoubtedly a positive sign that the health agency has approved more simulated voyages — including on two of the largest cruise ships on the planet.