BUMPY RESTART: Cruise lines push toward US port restart but positive cases popping up

BUMPY RESTART: Cruise lines push toward US port restart but positive cases popping up
Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas.

CDC grants approval for Freedom of the Seas to sail from US port

Confirmed COVID cases on RCI’s Adventure of the Seas homeporting in Nassau

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Royal Caribbean has announced that its Freedom of the Seas vessel is set to sail from a US port with paying passengers this Friday, though the industry’s resumption from US ports is off to somewhat of a bumpy start for some.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had issued a no-sail order for cruise lines for several months last year due to the pandemic. That order was lifted last November and in April of this year, it issued a second phase of technical guidance under the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) for the industry to move towards a restart.

Royal Caribbean International revealed in a recent press statement that its Freedom of the Seas vessel has received the CDC’s conditional sailing certificate and will set sail with revenue passengers this Friday. It is the cruise line’s first ship to resume sailing with paying passengers from a US port.

The ship’s first sailing carrying paying passengers will run July 2 through July 5 to celebrate Independence Day, according to the company. It will sail from Miami and stop at Nassau and Royal Caribbean’s private island Perfect Day at Coco Cay.

The company said in a statement: “As the cruise industry’s first ship to receive approval and conduct a simulation cruise, Freedom successfully completed its simulation that departed on June 20 from Port Miami.”

The company added: “Royal Caribbean is pursuing one of two pathways laid out by the CDC to get back to cruising. It requires that US-based ships conduct simulation cruises to test health and safety protocols if the cruise line expects to return to sailing with less than 95 percent fully vaccinated guests or crew.

“As a family brand, Royal Caribbean typically sees that children under the age of 12 make up 10 percent of our guests on board and today, they are ineligible for the vaccine.

“We are committed to continuing to deliver memorable family vacations and it is why we are conducting simulation sailings. As we set sail once again in the US, our crew will be fully vaccinated and our health protocols will include vaccination policies for all our guests.”

Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream ship.

It was recently revealed that after a routine test, two unvaccinated minors tested positive aboard Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas vessel that is homeporting in Nassau.

Similarly, the Disney Dream ship that was scheduled to set sail with about 300 volunteers on Tuesday had to cancel its cruise after a small number of employees showed inconsistent COVID-19 test results that were considered positive by the CDC.

The CDC requires that cruise lines conduct test cruises with only volunteer passengers to ensure their COVID-19 safety protocols are robust.

Several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Crystal Cruises, have recently announced plans to begin homeporting in The Bahamas, with tourism stakeholders anticipating the development will boost economic recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic.