(11:30 a.m. EDT) -- Royal Caribbean announced Tuesday it has received formal approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct revenue operations aboard Freedom of the Seas, paving the way for Royal Caribbean's first U.S. cruise departure in 15 months.
Freedom of the Seas was granted a Conditional Sailing Certificate by the CDC following its successful simulated test voyage earlier this month. A necessary step for any cruise ship operating out of U.S. waters without full vaccination mandates, these test cruises have been scheduled by numerous lines seeking their own restart from U.S. homeports.
Freedom of the Seas departs July 2 from Miami and sails over the Independence Day long weekend. The ship will call on Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay, and Cruise Critic will be onboard to report live from Royal Caribbean's first U.S. departure since the pandemic shut down travel in March 2020.
Royal Caribbean notes Freedom of the Seas will sail with all crew vaccinated, and a majority of passengers vaccinated. Most of the unvaccinated passengers onboard will be children currently ineligible for vaccination against COVID-19.
In recent days, Royal Caribbean has rolled out a list of protocols and restrictions for those passengers who are either unvaccinated or who decline to provide proof of vaccination, including restricted access to select bars, lounges, entertainment venues, dining areas and other amenities like the ship's spa and casino, both of which are off-limits to all but vaccinated passengers.
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Cruise Critic will be reporting from onboard Freedom of the Seas beginning this Friday.