Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas completes test cruise, can sail with paying passengers

Morgan Hines

Royal Caribbean International's Freedom of the Seas ship has received Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approval to sail with paying passengers after completing the first test cruise carrying employee volunteers in U.S. waters earlier this month.

"Today, Royal Caribbean International received the Conditional Sailing Certificate for Freedom of the Seas, which provides approval for passenger voyages. This follows the successful completion of the ship’s simulated voyage earlier this month," Royal Caribbean said in a statement provided by spokesperson Lyan Sierra-Caro.

The ship's first sailing carrying paying passengers will run July 2 through July 5 to celebrate Independence Day, according to the company. It will sail from Miami and stop at Nassau, Bahamas, and Royal Caribbean's private island Perfect Day at CocoCay. 

In an aerial view, the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas (L) prepares to set sail from PortMiami during the first U.S. trial cruise testing COVID-19 protocols on June 20, 2021 in Miami, Florida.

Freedom of the Seas is Royal Caribbean International's first ship to resume sailing with paying passengers from a U.S. port.

The upcoming cruises on Freedom of the Seas will carry fully vaccinated crew and "the majority of guests" will also be fully vaccinated, according to Royal Caribbean. Unvaccinated guests, which the cruise line expects to be mainly children, will be subject to additional health protocols including testing.

"It is strongly recommended that guests set sail fully vaccinated, if they are eligible," Sierra-Caro told USA TODAY about cruises on Freedom of the Seas and for all sailings out of Florida. "Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols at their own expense."

Children who are ineligible for the vaccine will not be charged for additional testing.

Celebrity Cruises, the sister line to Royal Caribbean International, dropped its vaccination requirement in Florida before departing on its first sailing with paying passengers. Initially, Celebrity had committed to a vaccine requirement to bypass a test sailing in accordance with CDC guidance but that mandate was at odds with a Florida state law. While it dropped the requirement for proof of vaccines, Celebrity Edge sailed Saturday from Florida with around 99% of its passengers vaccinated.

USA TODAY has reached out to the CDC for comment.

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