While the CDC has officially lifted its “No Sail Order” and advances have been made towards a COVID-19 vaccine that is over 90% effective, U.S. cruise lines will still be required to implement a phased approach to resuming passenger operations. According to the guidelines announced on October 30, 2020, cruise lines will need to complete simulated sailings designed to test each ship’s ability to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. After successfully conducting test voyages, cruise lines can then apply to receive a Conditional Sailing Certificate. Here’s what we know so far about these CDC-ordered test cruises.
Who will be sailing on CDC-ordered test cruises?
Test cruises will most likely contain a variety of cruise line employees as well as other volunteer passengers. According to the CDC, all volunteers must be 18 years of age or older and provide written documentation from their healthcare provider stating that they have no pre-existing medical conditions that would put them at high risk for COVID-19. The CDC also notes that these test sailings must be conducted consensually and cruise lines cannot require participation as a condition of employment or in exchange for a future reward.
When will test cruises begin sailing?
It has not yet been confirmed by the CDC or cruise lines as to when simulated sailings will start. However, it’s speculated that these test cruises won’t take place until early 2021. Cruise lines must still staff the ships they want to bring into service and ensure all crew members follow a mandatory 14-day quarantine process. These procedures must all be proposed to the CDC in writing and have cooperation from relevant port authorities before they are implemented.
Where will test cruises sail to?
Decisions have yet to be made in terms of where test cruises will sail to, if anywhere at all. However, the CDC states that if any shore excursions are planned for when operations resume, they must be included during simulated voyages. This leads industry experts to expect destinations will at least include cruise lines’ own private islands. This will prevent possible transmission between passengers and port city residents as well as allow the cruise lines to more easily observe and control embarkation/debarkation along with onshore activities.
What will you have to do when participating in a test cruise?
The purpose of CDC-ordered test cruises is to assess the new health and safety protocols proposed by the cruise lines. While volunteer passengers may enjoy “fun” activities such as enjoying restaurants, participating in shore excursions, and grabbing drinks at the bar, they will also most likely have to get on and off the ship multiple times or stay in their cabins while performing quarantine exercises. Masks and social distancing will be required at all public gathering areas aboard ships as well. In addition, the CDC may require further COVID-19 rapid testing for anyone who exhibits symptoms (apart from the standard departure day and after debarkation testing). If anyone is suspected to have contracted the virus, the CDC may cut the voyage short.
Here’s a full list of what must be simulated during a test cruise:
- Embarkation and Debarkation Procedures (Including Terminal Check-In)
- On-Board Activities (Including Dining and Entertainment Venues)
- Private Island Shore Excursions (If Any Are Planned During Restricted Passenger Voyages)
- Evacuation Procedures (Muster Drill)
- Transfer of Symptomatic Passengers or Crew, or Those Who Tested
- Positive for COVID-19 from Cabins to Isolated Rooms
- Quarantine of All Remaining Passengers and Non-Essential Crew
- Other Activities May Be Listed in CDC Technical Instructions and Orders
How do you sign up for a test cruise?
Even though simulated voyages will be mostly procedural in nature, many cruise fans are eager to get back on a ship. They see volunteering as a way for them to support their favorite cruise lines and crew members who have provided them with joyful memories over the years. While the CDC and cruise lines are still determining exactly how test cruises will operate, Royal Caribbean has started gathering information from volunteers who want to sign up for a test cruise. If you’re interested in being one of the first passengers back on a cruise ship and would like to participate in helping the cruise lines ensure sailing is safe again, you can sign up for a Royal Caribbean test cruise here.
Will Go Port offer hotel, transportation, and parking packages for test cruises?
As the leading provider of hotel, transportation, and parking packages for Port Canaveral cruisers, Go Port is eager to offer their services for simulated voyages. Our team has been closely monitoring the industry to ensure the implementation of proper health and safety standards within our packages that reflect those of the cruise lines we service, in accordance with the CDC. Most of our hotel partners have already established new practices, including social distancing, enhanced cleaning protocols, and even contactless check-in. Face masks are also required around hotel common areas. On our cruise shuttles, travelers will be required to wear face masks. All Go Port team members at the airports, cruise terminals, and our cruise parking facility will be routinely health screened and will wear protective equipment. Buses will be cleaned in regular intervals in accordance with guidelines provided by the CDC. Additionally, social distancing will be enforced while boarding our vehicles. Other procedures we are considering include contactless check-in, limited passenger capacity, hand sanitation stations, and more.
Check back for updates as we continue to learn more about CDC-ordered test cruises.
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