Everyone is itching to get the hell out of their house, and cruise lines are itching to set sail again. According to new CDC measures released at the beginning of November, ships will be required to sail on simulated voyages to test their Covid safety protocols before resuming normal sailing operations. What will the test sailings entail and how can you get on board a free cruise? Read on.
The CDC’s Conditional Sail Orders require that voyages include embarkation, disembarkation, onboard activities including entertainment and dining, and shore excursion at the cruise lines’ private islands though the length of the cruise is not specified. Unlike normal cruises, passengers will not be allowed to roam ports of call on their own – they must go ashore in monitored groups. The success (or failure) of the test sailings will presumably be used to determine whether individual cruise lines are allowed to set sail again.
As part of safety testing procedures during the test cruises, cruise lines are required to test evacuation protocols and quarantining of passengers. So the experience sounds like it’ll be a lot like the first three hours of a cruise where you go over safety procedures and can’t have any fun. I assume this is doubly true for anyone that is selected to be a quarantine subject. Nonetheless, it’s a free cruise if you’re brave enough to volunteer and risk getting Covid.
Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have indicated they will be using employees as well as external volunteers to test protocols. Over 100,000 people signed up to be Royal Caribbean guinea pigs in about a week (signup link here). Guidelines only stipulate that volunteers must be over 18 years old and be able to provide a written certification from a doctor that they don’t have a pre-existing medical condition.
Other cruise lines including Carnival Corp, which owns Holland America and Princess Cruises, have confirmed that they will be undertaking these test voyages as well though they have not yet begun recruiting passengers. As per CDC guidelines, all passengers are required to have a negative test to be welcomed aboard. Of course, you agree to the risk that your test will not be negative on the way off the boat.
If precedent is any indication, it might be a riskier endeavor than you might hope despite strict new hygiene measures for cruising. Earlier this month, five passengers aboard the first cruise ship to set sail in the Caribbean tested positive for the virus. May the odds be ever in your favor.