How to Be a Cruise Ship Volunteer Passenger for Trial Voyages

New guidelines for cruise lines preparing to conduct trial trips in U.S. waters, with volunteer passengers aboard, were released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

All volunteer passengers must meet several requirements to join a test cruise, including being at least 18 years old. They must also provide proof of being fully vaccinated or written documentation certifying they have no medical conditions that would place them at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

It is not yet known how many cruise lines are planning to conduct simulated voyages nor when they can take place.

So far, Royal Caribbean International, which says it operates six of the world's largest cruise ships among its fleet of 24 vessels, has provided a "Volunteer of the Seas" portal for those interested in signing up to be selected to join a trial voyage.

The portal notes: "If a certain threshold level of COVID-19 is detected onboard the ship during your voyage, the voyage will end immediately, the ship will return to the port of embarkation, and your subsequent travel, including your return home, may be restricted or delayed. Health and safety protocols, guest conduct rules, and regional travel restrictions vary by ship and destination, and are subject to change without notice.

"Due to evolving health protocols, imagery and messaging may not accurately reflect onboard and destination experiences, offerings, features, or itineraries. These may not be available during your voyage, may vary by ship and destination, and may be subject to change without notice."

Once users click on the "Next" icon at the bottom of the webpage, they are required to provide some personal information on the next page.

Users can also check Royal Caribbean's "Volunteers of the Seas" Facebook group page for any related updates on trial cruises.

Back in November, the Norwegian Cruise Line's president and CEO Frank Del Rio said the company had been hoping to host trial sailings "as early as early January."

His statement came after the CDC released its "framework for conditional sailing order" on October 30, which outlined a phased approach for resuming cruises.

Passenger operations were suspended during the initial phases of the order. The suspension was to remain in effect until November 1 this year.

Del Rio said at the time: "There's still a lot to learn about the order and the nuances of how to execute those orders, how to implement the 74 recommendations seamlessly along with the framework that the CDC has laid out. And those are complex issues, what kind of testing, how often do we test, etc."

Other cruise operators have yet to reveal details on plans for hosting possible trial voyages.

Newsweek has contacted different major cruise lines, including Carnival Corporation (which operates nine brands including Princess Cruises and the Holland America Line) as well as Norwegian and Royal Caribbean for further comment.

Cruise operators interested in hosting a trial cruise must meet several eligibility requirements and submit an application to the CDC for approval at least 30 calendar days prior to the proposed start date of the simulated cruise.

The CDC advises: "The minimum number of required volunteer passengers for each simulated voyage must be at least 10 percent of the maximum number of passengers permitted onboard for restricted voyages."

See the CDC website for more information on eligibility requirements for cruise operators planning to conduct a test voyage and its volunteer passengers.

The cruise industry came to a halt last year following the CDC's "no sail order" for cruise ships issued on March 14, 2020. The CDC said at the time it had "reason to believe that cruise ship travel may continue to introduce, transmit, or spread COVID-19."

Several cruise companies have canceled their U.S. cruises due to the industry shutdown, including Carnival Cruise Line and Disney who both recently announced cancelations of U.S. sailings through June.

In late April, the CDC advised that cruises could resume operations in the U.S. from mid-July without restrictions if they can ensure nearly all passengers and crew members have been vaccinated.

"In lieu of conducting a simulated voyage, cruise ship operator responsible officials, at their discretion, may sign and submit to CDC an attestation [...] that 98 percent of crew are fully vaccinated and submit to CDC a clear and specific vaccination plan and timeline to limit cruise ship sailings to 95 percent of passengers who have been verified by the cruise ship operator as fully vaccinated prior to sailing," the CDC explains.

Any cruise travel enthusiasts itching to get on a cruise before mid-July can keep an eye out for any trial voyages that may be held before then.

Royal Caribbean cruise ship Miami 2021
The "Celebrity Silhouette" cruise ship operated by Celebrity Cruises, a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean, moored in Miami, Florida on December 21, 2020, amid the pandemic. Royal Caribbean is planning to host trial voyages with volunteer passengers. Daniel SLIM/AFP via Getty Images

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