Passengers sailing from The Bahamas on Adventure of the Seas in August will have to get their Covid-19 tests complete closer to their sail date.
Royal Caribbean changed their policy for when guests sailing on Adventure of the Seas from The Bahamas need to get either a PCR or antigen test result.
Instead of 5 days before the sail date, all guests age 2 and older will need to take a negative test for Covid-19 no more than 3 days before arriving in The Bahamas.
Any kind of negative Covid-19 test will be accepted (PCR or antigen).
The new rule kicks in on August 1.
Changing testing requirements for cruises from The Bahamas have been a regular occurrence since cruises started back up on Adventure from The Bahamas.
Initially, The Bahamas required tests for all, then dropped it for vaccinated visitors. Royal Caribbean added antigen testing for all passengers as an early requirement, and then changed it to PCR tests.
Cruise line health policies have had to be adjusted due to changing needs and best practices advised by health officials.
Royal Caribbean says its test requirements more stringent than what The Bahamas mandates for inbound travelers.
Adventure of the Seas is the only Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing from The Bahamas, and was the first ship to restart operations in North America, following the cruise industry shutdown.
With cruise ships you can sail on back again, many cruise fans are eager to get back on the ocean and enjoy the kind of vacation they have been without since early 2020.
Not only is it exciting to get back on a cruise again, but a lot of people that love to cruise want to make up for lost time, and do as much as they can now as a way to soak in the cruise experience.
In the travel industry, that sort of mindset is being referred to as "revenge travel", where someone tries to get out there and travel again as much as they can since it was not available last year.
If the upcoming cruise you have booked is your first sailing back after many months, here are some creative ways to make the most of your time back onboard.
Share the wealth with the crew members
While cruisers have been without cruising for fun since early 2020, crew members have been without their career for the same amount of time.
Many of the crew members that are back onboard are finally getting an opportunity to work again, and all that time off from working on a ship may not have been while fully employed back home.
Just keep in mind the hard working crew when that check comes to your table, or when your drink order is served to you.
Book an unlimited dining package
Anytime you have the word "unlimited" associated with a consumable, you know it tends to lean in the direction of exorbitance.
With Royal Caribbean's unlimited dining package, now is as good a time as any to enjoy all the different specialty restaurant choices available on your ship.
Specialty dining was always something nice to sprinkle in, but eating all of your meals at these fantastic restaurants is the perfect way to get back into the swing of cruising again.
Splurge on your cabin
I think most people that cruise a lot tend to gravitate towards a certain cabin category, so maybe this is the time to splurge and move up a category.
This does not mean you have to book a suite, but try the next room category above what you might ordinarily book.
Moving up to a higher stateroom means more space, and if you do go for a suite, more Crown and Anchor Society points, as well as extra amenities.
Redeem your credit card points
While you may not have been able to travel much over the last 16 months, very likely you were still buying things (probably online). So now is a great time to redeem all those credit card points to enhance your cruise vacation.
If you have to fly, redeeming credit card points for an airline flight can really take a bite out of the total vacation budget you have to set aside.
You could also use points for a pre-cruise hotel stay, rental car reservation, or redeem points at various shopping sites for an assortment of cruise-related purchases.
Try an activity you've never done onboard
If you are anything like me, you not only missed being able to go on a cruise, but realized how much we took cruising for granted.
One way to take better advantage of your time on the ship is to try an activity or offering you have never done before.
Here are some ideas for activities a lot of people see, but often say "I'll do that later":
- Climb the rock climbing wall
- Try the FlowRider surf simulator
- Attend the napkin folding demonstration
- Eat at Chef's Table
- Play a round of mini-golf
- Order the escargot in the main dining room
Go on a sailing that visits Perfect Day at CocoCay
If you are looking to book your first cruise back, make sure it visits Perfect Day at CocoCay.
Royal Caribbean's makeover of their private island in The Bahamas is really impressive, and a day at CocoCay is a fantastic opportunity to truly savor a Royal Caribbean cruise.
While cruise ships are sailing at limited capacity, it will really feel like you have the island to yourself, and that means faster service and more options during your day there.
Catch the sunset at sea
Seeing a sunset at sea is something that never gets old, and it should be a must-do on your list when you get back onboard.
When conditions are right, and the clouds give way to an unobstructed sunset, a sunset is an incredible sight.
While activities like water slides, zip lines, or ice skating garner a lot of attention when it comes to marketing a cruise, sometimes the simple pleasures are what endears us all to cruising time and time again.
Stay onboard during a port stop
While I think visiting the ports of call your cruise ship visits is always a fun opportunity to explore the world, consider on one of those stops staying onboard to maximize your ship time.
During the cruise industry shutdown, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about being back on the Royal Promenade or in a hot tub on the pool deck, and staying on the ship while most others are on shore excursions is a great way to take advantage of everything a ship offers.
I think you can make an equally compelling argument that going on an awesome shore excursion is a great way to make up for lost time as well, but the more time you can spend onboard to immerse yourself in the cruise ship experience is not a bad idea either.
Royal Caribbean is asking regular people to volunteer to help go one of the cruise line's test sailings.
Before Royal Caribbean's cruise ships can restart operations, the line needs people to go on simulated voyages as a volunteer and help test out the new Covid-19 protocols and rules.
Some of the first invitations to top tier Crown and Anchor Society members, as well as travel agents, are starting to be sent out via email.
The first test sailings Royal Caribbean conducted were comprised of Royal Caribbean employees who volunteered their time to help out. But the cruise line is now asking regular people to do test sailings to help get ships back into service.
We now have our first look at what an invitation to a test cruise looks like.
A RoyalCaribbeanBlog reader was selected to sail on the Ovation of the Seas test cruise from Seattle to Alaska at the end of this month.
In case you were wondering, the anonymous person selected for this test cruise is a travel agent, Platinum Crown and Anchor Society member, and signed up to be a volunteer the very first day Royal Caribbean publicized the opportunity.
Ovation will sail a 5-night simulated voyage to Ketchikan, beginning on July 30. If all goes well, her first revenue sailing is scheduled for August 13.
Only volunteers 18 years of age or older, who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, are eligible to join. One guest in the room must be at least 21 years old.
The two pieces of identification test cruisers need are a valid Passport book or Passport card, and hard-copy of vaccination card as proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 using an FDA or WHO authorized vaccine.
These test cruises are mandated by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC), and volunteers are required to be notified of the riskiness of being part of a test cruise.
"The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requires this written notification to advise all volunteer passengers that they are participating in health and safety protocols that are unproven and untested in the United States for purposes of simulating a cruise ship voyage and that sailing during a pandemic is an inherently risky activity. "
In the email sent to volunteers that are picked for a given test sailing, the registration system is on a first-come, first served basis, and the faster you sign up, the better your chance of getting a room. People that take longer to sign up will be put on a wait list.
"Registration will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis and will be capacity controlled. Should the event reach the desired capacity, the registration tool will indicate such and grant you the ability to join our waitlist."
Here are some of the more interesting rules for volunteers who opt to cruise.
Invitations to register for test sailings are non-transferable.
Each guest will be granted one double occupancy stateroom to invite a guest of his/her choice.
Staterooms will be assigned at random and cannot be preselected nor changed once confirmed.
Certain volunteers will be designated as “unvaccinated” to aid in simulating protocols for unvaccinated guests. Volunteers designated as “unvaccinated” will need to undergo COVID-19 testing and may be restricted from entering certain venues.
There will be limited opportunities to dine in specialty restaurants at a 50% discount.
Room service will be available. Breakfast is complimentary and all-day menu will be available for extra charge.
Beverages will be available to purchase at 50% off once onboard. Beverage packages will not be available.
Shore excursions will be available to reserve at 35% off.
VOOM Internet will be available at a 50% discount.
Photo purchases available at a 50% discount for Printed Photos, Digitals and Retail (electronics excluded).
Retail shops and Spa services will be available.
The standard daily gratuity charge will be automatically added to each volunteer’s SeaPass account once onboard.
- While onboard, masks will be required in indoor spaces, unless actively eating or drinking
- Masks not required in venues designated as vaccinated-only.
- Masks not required in your stateroom
- Masks not needed in pool area or for activities where they could become wet
- Masks are not required outdoors, unless in a crowded setting
Why is Royal Caribbean doing test cruises?
Some have wondered why Royal Caribbean International did not follow sister brand Celebrity Cruises in mandating 95% of its guests be fully vaccinated, and it has to do with the fact Royal Caribbean International is a family brand.
The simple answer is families, as Royal Caribbean is a family brand and too many children are not eligible yet to be vaccinated.
Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Mark Tamis, emphasized the decision to conduct test sailings was an easy one for the cruise line, "When the first set of potential regulations were published, it was such an obvious choice of the path that we had to go down."
"Once there were two clear paths, 95% or under 95%, it wasn’t even really a consideration."
Mr. Tamis called the decision "obvious" given how many kids sail with Royal Caribbean, along with the cruise line's dedication to remaining a family brand. "A good 20 to 25 percent of our guests are kids."
We now know the name of the show Royal Caribbean's newest show on Odyssey of the Seas.
Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Nick Weir, posted on Twitter the name of the new show for the Two70 venue.
While Odyssey of the Seas launched months ago from the shipyard, the entirety of the entertainment onboard has not been known.
Guests on Odyssey of the Seas can enjoy "The Book" in Two70, which has a subtitle of "Seven Chapters, One Adventure."
Mr. Weir revealed the poster artwork on Twitter.
He added, "Using the powers of observation and deductive reasoning, (plus previous clues), the name of the production should be fairly easy to determine."
According to Weir, the show will be fine tuned this summer, and will feature a character known as The Librarian.
"Here is the mysterious Librarian, in his special library, with his equally special collection of books."
The Book will be in addition to the Oceanides show previously announced for Two70 on Odyssey of the Seas.
Two70 is the venue Royal Caribbean designed on the aft of its Quantum and Quantum Ultra class ships that offers immersive scenery on a 270 degree wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.
The projection surface in Two70 measures 135 feet wide and 22 feet tall, and has a 12k digital screen along with 8-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide robotic screens.
Odyssey of the Seas will set sail from Fort Lauderdale on new 6- and 8-night Caribbean cruises, beginning July 31.
Carnival Cruise Line announced this week the next phase of its restart plans, which includes bringing back its entire fleet by the end of the year.
Parent company Carnival Corporation outlined plans for resuming cruises across eight of its nine brands, representing a total of 54 ships.
The Carnival Cruise Line brand has restarted sailings on some ships, will have the remaining nine ships in its fleet back to operations by the end of 2021.
The three ships for September are the Carnival Glory from New Orleans, starting Sept. 5, the Carnival Pride from Baltimore, starting Sept. 12, and the Carnival Dream from Galveston, starting Sept. 19.
In October, the four additional ships to restart will be the Carnival Conquest from Miami, effective Oct. 8, the Carnival Freedom from Miami, effective Oct. 9, the Carnival Elation from Port Canaveral, effective Oct. 11, and the Carnival Sensation from Mobile, effective Oct. 21.
Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy talked about bringing back the entire fleet, "Our plan envisions successfully bringing back our entire fleet by the end of the year, returning to full service – most especially for the millions of families who sail with us – and building back our business for the benefit of our guests, employees and the tens of thousands of jobs and local businesses that depend on our company."
Carnival Cruise Line first resumed cruises from the U.S. during the first weekend in July.
Carnival ships sailing in the summer and fall will have mostly fully vaccinated passengers onboard, although exemptions can be made for unvaccinated passengers depending on space.
Essentially, Carnival will offer exemptions to unvaccinated guests on a limited, capacity-managed basis within 14 days of sailing as the cruise line finalizes the vaccinated guest count. The more bookings Carnival initially secures for cruises with fully vaccinated guests, the more exemptions they can ultimately offer for unvaccinated guests already booked and those wishing to sail.
Carnival will operate these sailings with at least 95 percent vaccinated guests, which means the ships will not have to do test cruises.
Unvaccinated passengers who are admitted to sail will need to undergo additional pre-cruise and mid-cruise testing and pay a $150 fee to cover screening costs. Unvaccinated travelers on specific Carnival itineraries from Florida and Texas will also need to show proof of travel insurance.
These requirements of unvaccinated passengers is similar to Royal Caribbean's policies, although Carnival is handling how they book unvaccinated passengers differently.
Anyone booked on Carnival that does not wish to sail due to the vaccination requirements and protocols is able to request a full refund with no penalties.
Royal Caribbean's restart plans in the U.S. are only outlined for 9 of its ships so far. A few ships are sailing in Europe this summer, and Quantum of the Seas is operating out of Singapore.
Royal Caribbean has not yet spelled out exactly what its restart plans will look like in the fall and winter of this year.
Singapore has raised its Covid-19 alert status, and the result is Royal Caribbean's cruise protocols for sailings from that country have to go back to being far more strict.
As a result of the government announcement, Quantum of the Seas sailings will revert to a lower capacity, along with other restrictions, such as no sit down dining options.
Our friends at Singapore Cruise Society shared the update Royal Caribbean is conveying to booked guests.
Singapore has raised its Covid-19 status to Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), which will apply to sailings beginning on July 22 and remain in effect until at least August 18.
Guests sailing on Quantum will have to take an antigen test prior to embarkation at the cruise terminal, in addition to the PCR test they are required to take in the days leading up to sailing.
Specifically, here are some of the major changes guests sailing on Quantum of the Seas from Singapore can expect:
- Reduced shipwide capacity of 25%
- Group sizes of no more than two guests.
- Guests from same household may travel in the same stateroom, but will be required to remain to a maximum of two per group while in public areas
- Restaurants & bars will be closed, but the Main Dining Room menu will be available through room service. Guests will have to dine in their cabins.
- Capacity for all life entertainment shows to be restricted to 50 guests.
- Permitted onboard activities, such as those in SeaPlex, Activitity Zone & Pool Zone will continue to operate at reduced capacity.
- Guests who pre-purchased dining and beverage packages will be refunded automatically.
Passengers booked on the July 22nd sailing of Quantum of the Seas have the option for a full refund if these new protocols are not to their liking. All other sailings going forward have the choice of a 100% future cruise credit.
This is not the first time Quantum of the Seas has had to adhere to heightened protocols from Singapore. Earlier this year, similar protocols were put into place.
In May 2021, Singapore announced it would move to Phase 2 when cases in the country spiked. In May and now, the changing ship protocols are not a result of any cases on the ship.
Throughout the pandemic, Singapore has taken an aggressive stance at trying to detect and isolate new cases.
The Government will review the measures in two weeks and adjust them based on the situation at that time, the Ministry of Health (MOH) added.
Singapore opted not to differentiate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people for this alert change, but will consider doing so when vaccination rates are higher or when the situation has stabilized
You may have read about the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit approved the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) request to delay an injunction against the agency's cruise ship rules.
That decision created a ripple of concern that cruise industry restart plans would be negatively affected, but the reality is the stay of the injunction being granted means things stay the same, rather than change.
While the lawsuit moves onto the appeals process, cruise fans should know that nothing has really changed between when Florida won its lawsuit, when the stay was initially denied, and now with the injunction delayed.
Here is a rundown of what is happening. and why things are staying the same.
Florida sued the CDC in April as a way to get all of the restrictions placed on the cruise industry since March 2020 to be lifted.
In June, a federal judge ruled that Florida was right and that the CDC had misused its governmental power.
US District Judge Steven Merryday issued a preliminary injunction, which would have overturned the Conditional Sail Order restrictions starting July 18, but the CDC requested to delay the decision.
Judge Merryday denied that request, but then an appellate court panel granted the CDC's appeal to delay the injunction in a 2-1 decision.
Now, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has pledged to continue the fight against the CDC.
"I think that most courts at this point have had their limit with the CDC issuing these dictates without a firm statutory basis," the Florida governor said at a press conference Monday. "So I'm confident that we'd win on the merits at the full 11th Circuit."
"Honestly, I'm confident we'd win at the US Supreme Court," he added.
Why nothing really changes
The news that the CDC won its request to delay the injunction got a lot of people concerned the cruise restart process would be impacted by this ruling, but the reality is the cruise industry has been working with the CDC over the last few months to get back into service.
Even while the courts were deliberating on the authority of the CDC, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean were working under the conditions of the CSO to get approval to sail.
So far two Royal Caribbean cruise ships are back in service from the United States (Freedom of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas), and Odyssey of the Seas is undergoing her test sailing right now.
Another six Royal Caribbean cruise ships have test cruises scheduled between now and the end of August.
Other cruise lines are also working with the CDC right now to get their ships approved via the test cruise program.
In short, the cruise lines have been working under the framework outlined by the CDC that Florida is fighting to get repealed, so its continued existence does not change the status quo related to cruise ship restart plans.
Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship is ready to begin her first test sailing today from south Florida.
While not announced by Royal Caribbean, Odyssey of the Seas appears to be ready to set sail today from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a test sailing.
These simulated voyages are required by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) in order to get approval to sail from the United States.
Odyssey of the Seas has had a long journey to this point, having been delayed during constructed and had a few inaugural sailings canceled due to the global health crisis in Europe and Israel.
Any Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing from the United States is required to undergo a test cruise so that the cruise line can demonstrate to the CDC the new health protocols onboard are effective at keeping passengers and crew members safe.
So far two other Royal Caribbean ships have successfully conducted test cruises: Freedom of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas.
It is not clear how long this test voyage will be, but if all goes well, Odyssey could be ready for her scheduled first sailing with paying passengers on July 31, 2021.
Odyssey will offer cruises from Fort Lauderdale this summer, fall, and winter.
Odyssey is the first Quantum Ultra Class ship to cruise from the U.S., which features SeaPlex - the largest indoor and outdoor activity complex at sea - and a vibrant, Caribbean-inspired pool deck.
Royal Caribbean chose to do test cruises instead of requiring 95% of its passengers be fully vaccinated as a way to ensure families could continue to sail.
Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley posted recently on social media there are a substantial amount of children too young for a vaccine on most sailings, "As a family brand, Royal Caribbean typically sails with 10 percent of our guests under 12 years old, and today, they are ineligible for the vaccine."
As a family brand that traditionally has over 1 million children sailing onboard, leaving kids out (and subsequently their parents and extended family) was not an option Royal Caribbean ever considered.
Royal Caribbean International's senior vice president of Hotel Operations, Mark Tamis, indicated choosing to do test cruises was a clear decision, "When the first set of potential regulations were published, it was such an obvious choice of the path that we had to go down."
"Once there were two clear paths, 95% or under 95%, it wasn’t even really a consideration."
Mr. Tamis called the decision "obvious" given how many kids sail with Royal Caribbean, along with the cruise line's dedication to remaining a family brand. "A good 20 to 25 percent of our guests are kids."
Test cruise requirements
The CDC has a laundry list of tasks required to be completed during a test cruise before a ship could be approved.
Cruise lines have the choice of doing all of these steps on one or over multiple test sailings, but thus far, Royal Caribbean has opted to conduct its test sailings over the course of a single voyage.
- Embarkation and disembarkation procedures, as approved by U.S. port and local health authorities as part the cruise ship operator’s Phase 2A agreements, including procedures for terminal check-in.
- Onboard activities, including seating and meal service at dining and entertainment venues.
- Medical evacuation procedures.
- Transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARS-CoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms.
- Onboard and shoreside isolation and quarantine, as per the terms of the cruise ship operator’s Phase 2A agreements, of at least 5% of all passengers and non-essential crew.
- Recreational activities that the cruise ship operator intends to offer as part of any restricted passenger voyages, e.g., casinos, spa services, fitness classes, gymnasiums.
- Private-island shore excursions if any are planned during restricted passenger voyages. The following measures must be observed on the private island:
- Only one ship can port at the island at any one time.
- A routine screening testing protocol must be implemented for island staff who are expected to interact with volunteer passengers or crew, unless they are fully vaccinated or have documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
- Mask use and social distancing must be observed in indoor areas while on the island.
- Port of call shore excursions if any are planned during restricted passenger voyages. The following measures must be observed on port of call shore excursions:
- Shore excursions must only include passengers and crew from the same ship.
- Cruise ship operator must ensure all shore excursion tour companies facilitate social distancing, mask wearing, and other COVID-19 public health measures throughout the tour while in any indoor areas.
- Cruise ship operators must have a protocol for managing persons with COVID-19 and close contacts at all foreign ports of call. At a minimum, the protocol must include the following:
- Disembarkation and housing of persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 needing shore-based hospital care and their travel companion(s) for the duration of their isolation or quarantine period.
- Commercial repatriation of U.S.-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts only after meeting criteria to end isolation and quarantine per CDC guidance. For commercial repatriation of foreign-based persons with COVID-19 and close contacts, cruise ship operators must consult with all relevant public health authorities.
Another milestone in the cruise industry's recovery has been reached today, with the official restart of cruises to Alaska.
Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas is scheduled to depart Seattle on July 19.
After more than a year with cruising on pause, Serenade will sail from Pier 91 in Seattle – a change from its previously scheduled homeport in Vancouver.
The significance of this first sailing is as large for the cruise industry as it is for the people of Alaska.
Just like cruises to the Caribbean, cruises to Alaska have been shutdown since 2020.
Without cruise tourists to Alaska since late 2019, the economic impact has been massive.
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy (R-AK) has incurred a $3.3 billion loss in tourist dollars over that timeframe.
For Royal Caribbean, this is another ship back in service and another ship that has received approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) to sail again.
Each of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships must perform a test cruise, where various health protocols and social distancing rules are tested out to demonstrate the ship can be operated safely.
Serenade of the Seas conducted her 4-night test cruise back on July 7 with 300 fully vaccinated passengers onboard.
The week-long itinerary features a lineup of ports of call, including Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan and Icy Strait Point, Alaska, as well as Endicott Arm fjord and Dawes Glacier.
For Alaska sailings departing from Seattle, Washington before August 1, all Royal Caribbean guests age 16 and older must present proof of Covid-19 vaccination, with the final dose of their vaccine administered at least 14 days before sailing.
After August 1, that requirement drops to 12 years old.
Guests under the age of this requirement don’t need to be vaccinated and will receive a Covid-19 test at the terminal before boarding.
It looks like Royal Caribbean has perhaps changed its mind about the mixed vaccine policy after all.
Over the weekend, Royal Caribbean had joined other cruise lines in adding language to its vaccination policy saying it would not accept mixed vaccines as being fully vaccinated.
As of this morning, that policy has been removed from its website, and there is no mention at all of mixed vaccines.
The rule change was originally about not considering someone who had taken doses of different brands of Covid-19 vaccines fully vaccinated. This would mean someone who took 1 dose Pfizer + 1 dose Moderna, or 1 dose AstraZeneca + 1 dose Pfizer, etc.
If a guest did have a mixed vaccine regiment, they would be considered instead unvaccinated.
The practice of mixing vaccines is prevalent in countries like Canada or Germany, where those governments have been openly advocating this approach for months.
The new policy would have resulted in many Canadian cruise fans potentially unable to sail.
Royal Caribbean has not commented publicly about the policy change, but it was not the only line to update its requirements.
Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises all modified their Health and Safety protocols to exclude those who had received mixed COVID-19 vaccinations. Royal Caribbean followed with their change a day later.
As of right now, Royal Caribbean's policy posted online makes no mention of mixed vaccines and it is not clear if public pressure or something else compelled them to reverse the change.