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After simulation, Freedom OK'd to sail July 2; six more Royal ships set for trials

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Freedom of the Seas, pictured here at Perfect Day at CocoCay, received a conditional sailing certificate to carry revenue passengers starting July 2
Having successfully completed the US-based industry's first simulation cruise, Freedom of the Seas received a conditional sailing certificate to carry passengers starting July 2.

The simulation cruise departed June 20 from PortMiami, carrying all volunteers, mainly Royal Caribbean employees.

In addition, the company laid out COVID-19 testing and insurance requirements for unvaccinated passengers on cruises from Florida.

Cape Liberty, Canaveral, Miami, Galveston, Seattle ships

Royal Caribbean International also said it has received approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to operate simulation cruises on six more ships: Allure of the Seas (July 27 from Port Canaveral), Symphony of the Seas (Aug. 1 from PortMiami), Independence of the Seas (Aug. 1 from Port of Galveston), Mariner of the Seas (Aug. 11 from Port Canaveral), Serenade of the Seas (July 7 from Port of Seattle) and Oasis of the Seas (Aug. 22 from Cape Liberty at Bayonne).

Since Royal Caribbean expects to return to sailing with fewer than 95% fully vaccinated travelers — because children under 12 typically make up 10% of its passengers and currently they're ineligible for the vaccine — it must conduct the simulated sailings.

Crew will be fully vaccinated

The line said its crew will be fully vaccinated as it resumes cruising from the US.

For US-based sailings, Royal Caribbean is requiring travelers eligible for the vaccine to be fully vaccinated on cruises from Seattle and Galveston. On cruises from Florida, the line is strongly recommending vaccination for those who are eligible.

'Those who are unvaccinated or unable to verify vaccination will be required to undergo testing and follow other protocols at their own expense,' Royal Caribbean said. 'Based on our guest surveys, we expect 90% of all our guests to be fully vaccinated.'

Multiple tests for unvaccinated travelers on Freedom

For Freedom of the Seas' July sailings from Miami, no testing is needed for vaccinated passengers. All unvaccinated guests 2 and older must undergo multiple COVID-19 tests.

$136 per person

Testing at the terminal prior to embarkation and on board before disembarking will be conducted by licensed and accredited third-party providers. For those 16 and older, the total charge from the vendor for these tests is $136 per person, to be applied to the passenger's shipboard account. Royal Caribbean will pay the testing vendor(s) on the guest’s behalf and will not retain any part of the costs. For ages  2 to 15, the line will cover the cost of any required testing.

Plus, PCR test within three days of embarking

For Freedom's July cruises, unvaccinated guests 16 and older will need to undergo a PCR test administered by an accredited laboratory of the guest’s choice no more than three days before sailing. Documentation of a negative result is required to embark and the cost of the test is the traveler's responsibility.

Unvaccinated guests 2 years and older are required to take a PCR test when checking in at the terminal, which will be administered by a Royal Caribbean testing vendor.

Prior to disembarkation antigen test

While on board Freedom, unvaccinated guests 2 years and older will be required to undergo antigen testing before disembarking. This test will be conducted the day before the cruise ends by one of the company's vendors.

These tests will be complimentary for guests ages 2-15. Guests under 2 will not be tested.

Vaccination age drops to 12 Aug. 1

The vaccination requirement on cruises from the US, excepting Florida, drops to 12 starting Aug. 1.

Vaccination policies for each market are here. Protocols and costs vary and are still to be announced for US-based sailings after July.

Insurance requirement for unvaccinated

In addition, for cruises departing Florida homeports from Aug. 1 through year's end, each unvaccinated traveler 12 and older must present proof of insurance that has a per-person minimum of $25,000 in medical expense coverage and $50,000 for quarantine and medical evacuation related to a positive COVID-19 test result. This applies to bookings made after June 28. 

As earlier reported, MSC Cruises is also requiring not fully vaccinated travelers on its Florida departures to have insurance. 

Fully vaccinated travelers and children not yet ellgible for vaccination who book a Royal Caribbean cruise leaving on or before Oct. 31 will be covered by a COVID-19 Assistance policy that, among other things, provides a prorated refund should the cruise be cut short for a COVID-related reason. Full benefits are detailed here

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