Royal Caribbean gets CDC approval to begin simulated cruises in June

Freedom of the Seas will need to have at least 10% capacity

Royal Caribbean has officially received the blessing to begin simulated cruises from the U.S. this summer.

The cruise line announced Tuesday that it got approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to host a simulated cruise on the ship Freedom of the Seas June 20-22. The CDC approval letter posted to Facebook by Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley didn’t say from which port the ship will be sailing.

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“After 15 months and so much work by so many during 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,” Bayley wrote.

Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines across the country suspended sailings in March 2020 as coronavirus cases first began popping up in the U.S.

The cruise line will be required to operate the first two simulated voyages at at least 10% of the ship’s capacity and notify all volunteer passengers about the CDC’s travel notice on cruise ship travel, which is deemed a high-risk activity.

During the cruises, CDC requirements on COVID-19 testing and quarantining must be followed and any deficiencies in the line’s health and safety plan must be documented.

The CDC earlier this month provided cruise lines with technical guidelines for trial cruises. The passengers will be volunteers who are at least 18 years old and are either fully vaccinated or free of medical conditions that would put them at high risk for severe COVID-19.

Passengers must be examined for COVID-19 symptoms before and after the trip, and at least 75% must be tested at the end.

Restrictions on board will include face masks and social distancing. The CDC will allow guided shore excursions — no wandering about on their own — if tour operators follow certain standards.

Ships must make at least one practice run before resuming regular cruises in U.S. waters, although operators will be able to avoid the requirement if they vouch that 98% of crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.