Royal Caribbean's 'Freedom Of The Seas' Completes Simulated Cruise, Returns To PortMiami
MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Royal Caribbean's 'Freedom of the Seas' completed a simulated cruise, which tested COVID-19 safety protocols, and returned to PortMiami Tuesday morning.
The Freedom of the Seas, which conducted a two-night cruise with a stop at CocoCay in the Bahamas, arrived around 6 a.m.
The ship had 650 employees and their guests onboard. As required by the Centers for Disease Control, all were over 18 and fully vaccinated. But for the purposes of testing out protocol, Royal Caribbean said about 150 of their employees acted as unvaccinated guests.
"They went through our testing protocol and onboard the ship there are certain areas that are only designated to vaccinated guests," said Laura Hodges Bethge, the Senior Vice President of Shared Services Operations for Royal Caribbean.
The sailing was being watched by the entire cruise industry as it looks for its ships to return to cruising in the next few weeks. Members of the CDC were also on board the simulated cruise to see the cruise line's safety steps.
"Definitely added elements of just making sure that we have a heightened awareness of washing our hands, and making sure that every venue is clean and proper, and a little bit of heightened awareness with distancing," said Elisa Shen, the Executive Vice President of On-Board Revenue. "But everything that you wanted to do, you could do."
Last week, a federal judge handed Gov. Ron DeSantis a victory in his battle with the CDC. The governor had sued the federal agency over their restrictions on cruises.
In his ruling, U.S. Middle District of Florida Judge Steven D. Merryday concluded the CDC's restrictions regarding cruising, which includes a high percentage of guests and crew being vaccinated for COVID-19, are likely unconstitutional and overstepping their legal authority.
"So in times when they go from being an advisory board to being a body that can actually shut something down, the courts have, I think, rightfully said 'hold on, where is your authority to do that, you don't have it'," DeSantis said during a news conference in Jacksonville on Monday.
Royal Caribbean appears to have found a way to work around the ban DeSantis and the state legislature have put on businesses asking customers for proof of vaccination.
In emails to passengers booked on upcoming cruises from Florida, they are encouraging guests 16 and older to get vaccinated.
Vaccinated passengers can choose to provide verification. Those that do will get wristbands.
Unvaccinated passengers will have holes punched in their key cards and have to take multiple COVID-19 tests. The total charge for that will be $136 and the passengers must pay. The cruise line will pay for tests of children who are too young to get vaccinated.
Masks are required for everyone in certain parts of the ship, but vaccinated guests will be allowed to take them off in many places while unvaccinated passengers must keep them on.
Royal Caribbean said that since they expect the majority of their guests will be vaccinated, there will be some areas of ships where unvaccinated people simply are not allowed.
In the main dining rooms, there will be vaccinated and unvaccinated sections.
While this sounds strict, a recent survey showed most people think it's good to be vaccinated for cruises.
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