World’s largest cruise ship could sail again with paying passengers by early August

Jun 3, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The world’s largest cruise ship could be sailing again with paying passengers by August.

Royal Caribbean president and CEO Michael Bayley on Thursday said the line had won approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a so-called “test cruise” with its record-setting, 5,518-passenger Symphony of the Seas out of PortMiami starting Aug. 1.

Announcing the news in a Facebook post, Bayley also revealed that a second giant Royal Caribbean vessel, the 5,484-passenger Allure of the Seas, also had gotten CDC approval to operate a test cruise out of Port Canaveral, Florida, starting July 27.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s new cruise newsletter.

Nearly as big as Symphony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas is the world’s third-largest cruise ship.

Assuming all goes well with the sailings, the ships could resume regular voyages with paying passengers within days of the test cruises being completed.

“Yippie,” the often playful Bayley wrote at the start of the Facebook post announcing the news.

Neither Symphony of the Seas nor Allure of the Seas has operated a single departure in more than a year. Like the vast majority of the world’s cruise ships, the vessels have been idled since March of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Like all big, U.S.-based cruise ships, Symphony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas have been blocked from restarting departures for the past 15 months by the CDC, which has been worried about the spread of COVID-19 on cruise vessels.

In recent months, the CDC has published a list of rules and requirements that cruise lines must follow if they want to restart cruises in U.S. waters.

Among them, the CDC requires simulated “test cruises” with unpaid volunteers for any cruise vessel that plans to operate in U.S. waters between now and Oct. 31 without 95% of passengers vaccinated for COVID-19.

Related: Here’s how to volunteer for a 2-night Royal Caribbean test cruise 

Cruise vessels that plan to operate in U.S. waters in the coming months with at least 95% of passengers vaccinated for COVID-19 are exempt from the requirement.

The test cruises are designed to test new embarkation and disembarkation procedures, medical evacuation procedures and procedures for transferring symptomatic passengers and crew to isolation rooms set up on board the ships.

The CDC guidelines also call for the testing of new procedures surrounding onboard activities such as dining, shows and top-deck recreation.

Both of the Royal Caribbean test cruises announced Thursday will be two nights in length.

The CDC has given Royal Caribbean approval to conduct test cruises on three other ships: The 3,934-passenger Freedom of the Seas, 3,114-passenger Mariner of the Seas and 3,858-passenger Independence of the Seas. Royal Caribbean last week announced Freedom of the Seas would operate a test cruise on June 20. The line has yet to announced if or when the other two vessels will operate test cruises.

Several other vessels from other lines including Disney Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line also have won such approval. Disney plans to operate a test cruise for the 2,500-passenger Disney Dream in late June.

The CDC restart rules apply to all cruise vessels sailing in U.S. waters that carry more than 250 passengers and crew.

The fact that Royal Caribbean has asked the CDC to operate test cruises with Symphony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas suggests the line doesn’t plan to implement an across-the-board vaccine requirement for passengers on the ships when they resume operations.

That’s in contrast to the policy that Royal Caribbean has set out for cruises it already has resumed or plans to resume soon in some other destinations, including Singapore, the U.K. and Alaska.

It’s also in contrast to the policies that have been spelled out in recent months by more than a dozen lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Crystal Cruises and Azamara that have announced that COVID-19 vaccines will be mandatory for all passengers.

Related: Will I need a vaccine to cruise? A line-by-line guide

Implementing an across-the-board vaccine mandate is more difficult for Royal Caribbean than some of those other lines because it draws a large number of families with small children. Children under the age of 12 currently aren’t eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.