(1:20 p.m. EDT) -- Royal Caribbean’s much-anticipated newest ship, Odyssey of the Seas, has embarked from Fort Lauderdale on a two-night test cruise, in preparation for its first cruise on July 31.
The 4,198-passenger ship, a Quantum Ultra class with new features and restaurants that have yet to be enjoyed by U.S. passengers, left Port Everglades on Monday, July 19. When it starts its revenue cruises, Odyssey will sail on six- and eight-night Caribbean itineraries.
The test cruise is required by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because Royal Caribbean is allowing families onboard, and therefore not committing to require that 95 percent of passengers be vaccinated.
The line is, however, heavily suggesting all guests age 12 and up be vaccinated. Guests who are not vaccinated will find they are restricted from such new experiences as a Virtual Adventure Zone and Teppanyaki restaurant, serving hibachi-style Japanese cuisine.
Exciting New Features
The ship introduces, among new features, the largest SeaPlex at sea – an action wonderland that’s been updated to add more virtual reality- and augmented reality-based games including at the Virtual Adventure Zone.
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The indoor and outdoor SeaPlex also features glow-in-the-dark laser tag, bumper cars and a Sky Pad bungee trampoline.
The ship has a redesigned two-deck pool area, themed on the Caribbean, with two open-air resort-style pools and four whirlpools – surrounded by lounge chairs as well as casitas and hammocks. There’s also The Lime and Coconut Bar, featuring a rum drink of the same name and live music.
Odyssey is Royal Caribbean’s first North American-based ship with a Teppanyaki restaurant, one of 15 onboard eateries (eight, like Teppanyaki, carry an added fee).
Already popular Royal features are onboard too, including FlowRider surf simulator, RipCord by iFly simulated skydiving, a North Star observation capsule ride, a rock-climbing wall and a Splashaway Bay waterpark.
What’s Open For Vaxxed Vs. Non-Vaxxed Guests
Vaccinated guests will have the run of the ship – including indoor areas for vaccinated-guests only, where masks won’t be required (everyone can go mask-free outdoors).
As on other Royal ships that have recently set sail from the U.S., unvaccinated guests will be required to wear masks indoors when not eating and drinking and face a bunch of other restrictions. Vaccinated adults traveling with unvaccinated kids are restricted when they are with the kids.
Closed to unvaccinated guests are both the new Virtual Adventure Zone and laser tag. The rest of the SeaPlex, as well as North Star and RipCord, will be available to unvaccinated guests only during dedicated hours.
Those who have not been vaccinated will not have access to the new Teppanyaki restaurant nor Chef’s Table, and will be restricted to Deck 3 in the main dining room. All other restaurants are open to all guests, with social distancing in place.
If you have not been vaccinated you will not be allowed to visit the Casino Royal, indoor Solarium pool area, art auctions, nor the Vitality Spa (the fitness center will be open at dedicated times).
Open only to those with vaccines are Boleros and The Pub, as well as events such as the 70s party in SeaPlex and the HUSH! Silent Party. In the Musical Hall and the Royal Theater, unvaccinated guests will be restricted to seating on Deck 4.
Shore Excursions Required Only For Unvaxxed Guests
Royal Caribbean’s private Bahamas island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, is open to all guests without restrictions. That’s not the case at the Odyssey’s other ports of call – where those who are not vaccinated will only be allowed off the ship on shore excursions. Vaccinated guests are free to explore on their own.
The ports include Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, on the six-night Western Caribbean itineraries; and Aruba and Curacao on the eight-night Southern Caribbean sailings. Rules onshore in Falmouth, Jamaica are to be determined, according to Royal Caribbean’s website.