(11:40 a.m. EDT) – Cue the Volunteers of the Seas.
Fully vaccinated volunteers will be able to help Royal Caribbean on several upcoming "test cruises," the line said, in a Facebook post to its Crown & Anchor members.
"After receiving an incredible 350,000+ responses last year from people interested in becoming Royal Caribbean’s Volunteers of the Seas, this week we’ll be randomly selecting and extending invites to registered Volunteers to participate in upcoming simulation cruises," the post said.
"To recognize our valued Crown & Anchor Society members, all members receive extra entries that will increase your chances to score a spot onboard. The higher the tiers, the more entries you receive. Thank you for your continued support this past year and always."
The line has not announced what ships will host test cruises, but it's probably no coincidence that the test cruises with volunteers will take place after July 18. That's when the Conditional Sailing Order from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) becomes guidance rather than a rule in Florida. The U.S. government is challenging the decision made by a Florida judge to negate the CSO, but for now, it's still set to expire.
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Royal Caribbean ships with upcoming test cruises scheduled include Odyssey of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas (see the full list).
It also helps that Royal Caribbean has now run numerous test cruises on its ships already. Freedom of the Seas ran a successful test cruise before it began its sailings from Miami, and Serenade of the Seas completed one from Seattle last week before it begins Alaska sailings on July 19.
The company chose to do test sailings mandated by the CDC, as opposed to requiring 95 percent vaccination on their ships, because they want children under 12 who aren't eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to be able to sail with their families, Royal Caribbean International President Michael Bayley told press on Freedom of the Seas.
On that same trip, Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Hotel Operations Mark Tamis said that the test cruises had been carried out under CDC guidance with cruise line employees playing different roles.
"We did all sorts of actual simulations with them (the CDC)," Tamis said. "Some of it was just them observing how we enforce protocols and what the protocols are. But some are actual simulations, like what we call a tabletop exercise."
Tamis said that some employees were given scenarios so the crew could run through the protocols. For example, one could be a mother and daughter, where one of them had symptoms. "We actually enacted all of this in real time with the CDC and our medical staff," he said. "So, the learnings were tremendous."
In other words, if you're chosen for a test cruise, expect to be put through your paces. It may not be the same experience as a regular cruise – but you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you helped the crew run through new protocols.
Registration for Royal Caribbean's Volunteer of the Seas program has now closed, but Cruise Critic will update this story with more information as appropriate.