Cruise lines are looking for volunteer passengers to set sail on simulated voyages and test COVID-19 protocols before companies can fully resume full service on the water.
Royal Caribbean is beginning to look for participants for their mock cruises, however, they have yet to determine how they will recruit their volunteers, Vicki Freed, SVP of Sales, Trade Support and Service for the company, said during a webinar this week, according to Cruise Industry News.
“We are going to be doing a series of sailings using our employees and other volunteers to test out the protocols and make modifications,” she explained.
Under new rules released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, ships are required to hold simulated voyages to “test cruise ship operators’ ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk.”
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Operators must inform volunteers in writing that they are “participating in a simulation of unproven and untested health and safety protocols for purposes of simulating a cruise ship voyage and that sailing during a pandemic is an inherently risky activity,” according to the conditional order.
These voyages will have to include embarkation and disembarkation procedures including terminal check-in, onboard activities including at dining and entertainment, and private island shore excursions, if planned.
Companies must also test evacuation procedures, isolation of passengers or crew with COVID-19, and quarantining of others on board.
Volunteers for the mock voyages must be 18 or older and provide a written certification from a healthcare provider that they have no pre-existing medical conditions that could place them at risk of COVID-19, according to the CDC rules.
Cruise lines cannot attract volunteers “in exchange for consideration or future reward” or as a condition of employment. And all volunteers must be tested for COVID-19 before embarking and again before disembarking the vessel.
RELATED: 3 Major Cruise Lines Cancel Operations Until the New Year amid New CDC Order
“It is going to require a lot of work to restart operations,” Freed said. “It is complicated to go through this entire CDC recommendation and we are going to do it.”
Royal Caribbean’s first cruises to be offered in 2021 may be short sailings to CocoCay, its private island in the Bahamas, Cruise Industry News reported.
The Mariner and Navigator of the Seas, which are the company’s recently-refurbished ships, are expected to be the vessels used when returning to service, industry sources told the outlet.
The CDC first issued a no-sail order on March 14 that was intended to stay in place for 30 days. At the time, several cruise ships across the world had become sites of major coronavirus outbreaks and linked to numerous deaths.
“Cruise ships are incubators,” infectious disease expert Dr. William Haseltine previously told PEOPLE. “Everybody’s close together, packed in all the time. One person gets sick, a lot of them get sick. It’s a very unfavorable environment for disease transmission.”
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