Royal Caribbean’s first cruise in nearly nine months set sail on Tuesday, marking another step forward to normalcy for the industry that has largely been put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cruise line has scheduled three- and four-night “ocean getaway” cruises aboard the Quantum of the Seas through March. The voyages are round trips from and to Singapore with no stops along the way. Royal Caribbean is accepting only Singapore residents as passengers for the trips.
The ship has more than 2,000 staterooms, but Royal Caribbean has said it would reduce guest capacity to no more than 50% occupancy as part of health precautions it has put in place due to the pandemic.
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Every passenger and crew member is required to test negative for COVID-19 before boarding. And the ship has upped its cleaning standards and medical facilities in response to the pandemic.
In the event a guest or someone in their party does test positive for the virus within three weeks before cruising, Royal Caribbean will provide a 100% refund or future cruise credit.
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Royal Caribbean suspended all its cruises on March 14. The cruise line has extended the suspension through at least Dec. 31, other than the Quantum of the Seas. And it has stopped sales for trips longer than seven days that leave from or stop at U.S. ports through Nov. 1, 2021, Cruise Hives previously reported.
Cutting those longer cruises was necessary as Royal Caribbean works to meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s requirements for cruise ships to return to service in U.S. waters. Operators will need to demonstrate to the CDC that they have health protections in place for every step of a cruise, from embarking to onboard activities to any shore excursions.
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Cruise lines will need to hold mock cruises with volunteer passengers in order to show the CDC that they can handle the requirements. Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley wrote on Facebook last month that 100,000 people had already volunteered to participate.
“We can’t wait to start this next phase with you all,” he wrote.
Royal Caribbean may have already run one of those test cruises out of Singapore ahead of the Quantum of the Seas’ return to cruising. The Royal Caribbean Blog reported that a two-night test sailing was open by invite only with a small number of passengers to test health protocols.