The US government has given Royal Caribbean Group approval to sail two cruiseships in US waters next month — one as a simulated voyage and the other as a revenue sailing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave Royal Caribbean International the go-ahead to sail the 4,515-berth Freedom of the Seas (built 2006) on a mock voyage with volunteer passengers from 20 to 22 June.
The Royal Caribbean brand must follow a list of Covid-19 sailing rules that include capacity limitations and recording any health deficiencies among passengers.
"We commend the company's efforts to provide a safer and healthier sailing environment for your passengers and crew and look forward to our continued partnership," the CDC wrote in a letter to Royal Caribbean International president Michael Bayley.
The executive wrote on his Facebook page that the move comes after 15 months of very challenging times.
"To all our colleagues, loyal guests and supporters all over the world I am proud and pleased to share some bright and wonderful news! Boom! Onwards and upwards team!" he said.
A real voyage
The CDC is also allowing Royal Caribbean brand Celebrity Cruises to sail the 2,918-berth Celebrity Edge (built 2018) on a real voyage with paying passengers on 26 June from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Cruising from the US is back!” Royal Caribbean Group chief executive Richard Fain said in a statement.
“After months of working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government officials, our Healthy Sail Panel and industry partners, we can again offer cruise lovers the chance to enjoy the wonders of cruising."
Freedom of the Seas is approved for a simulated voyage because it will carry both vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers and crew, the CDC told TradeWinds.
Celebrity Edge has been given the green light to Royal Caribbean Group, which owns 52 vessels, and Celebrity Cruises for a revenue voyage because all of its passengers and crew will be fully vaccinated.
For flexibility's sake
Peer competitor Carnival Corp plans to take a test cruise in US waters with the intent of having the flexibility to hold partially vaccinated trips since most of its passengers are families with children.
The New York-listed cruise behemoth, which owns 87 ships, does not have any dates set for the simulated voyages but still expects to start sailing again in July.
It will require fully vaccinated passengers for voyages sailing to Alaska.
Frank Del Rio-led Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which owns 28 ships, plans to hold cruises with vaccinated passengers only.