Cruise lines will recruit volunteers for ‘mock’ voyages to test new pandemic health protocols

Nov 6, 2020

Cruise lines may offer free voyages to test out health protocols they plan to use when they return to the seas.

Royal Caribbean will be looking for volunteer passengers as the company prepares to return its ships to service, Vicki Freed, the senior vice president of sales, trade support and service for the company, said during a webinar this week, Cruise Industry News reported. The details of how it will recruit volunteers remain to be determined.

Cruise lines will need to hold mock voyages with volunteer passengers before they can resume sailing with reduced capacity under new rules released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.

“We are going to be doing a series of sailings using our employees and other volunteers to test out the protocols and make modifications,” Freed said, per Cruise Industry News.

Royal Caribbean’s first cruises next year may be short trips to CocoCay, its private island in the Bahamas, according to the report.

Other cruise lines will be undergoing similar preparations if they want to return to U.S. waters, though representatives from Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Corp. didn’t immediately respond to inquiries from Fox News.

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The CDC is requiring cruise lines to hold the simulated voyages in order to test their ability to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.

The simulated voyages will have to include terminal check-in, embarkation and disembarkation procedures, onboard activities including dining and entertainment venues and any private island shore excursions that they plan to provide for passengers going ahead, according to the CDC’s conditional sail order. The idea is to “replicate real world onboard conditions of cruising.”

They also must test evacuation procedures, isolation of sick passengers or crew plus quarantining of others on board.

And while cruise lines haven’t yet said how they’ll pick volunteers, the CDC does have some requirements. All the passengers must be 18 or older and provide written certification from a health care provider that they have no pre-existing medical conditions that put them at high risk for COVID-19. Cruise lines can’t use volunteering as a condition of employment or “in exchange for consideration or future reward.”

The ship operators will need to inform volunteer passengers in writing that they’re “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.” They’ll also be responsible for getting approval from local health authorities at any ports where the ship will dock during a simulated voyage.

The cruise lines will also have to get all the volunteer passengers tested for COVID-19 before embarking and again before disembarking.

“It is going to require a lot of work to restart operations,” Freed said, according to Cruise Industry News. “It is complicated to go through this entire CDC recommendation and we are going to do it.”
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Credit: Fox News

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