Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas sailed from Miami on Friday, marking the brand’s first U.S. cruise in more than 15 months with paying guests aboard.
According to the company, 93 percent of those onboard are fully vaccinated (crew and guests) for the first cruise of a summer-long series of three-night weekend and four-night week-day getaways to Perfect Day at CocoCay and Nassau, The Bahamas.
There are said to be just over 1,000 guests on the recently refurbished ship, which can hold approximately 3,600 passengers at double occupancy, according to the Global Cruise Ship Index by Cruise Industry News
“We have a lot to celebrate. Families and loved ones can finally come together after more than a year apart, and we’re now welcoming them back on board to make up for that lost time,” said Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “For a moment as meaningful as Fourth of July weekend, it couldn’t be more appropriate that Freedom of the Seas be the first ship to ring in our return to cruising in the U.S. and delivering the memorable and safe vacations Royal Caribbean is known for. Summer family vacations are back, and we are just getting started.”
Royal Caribbean also noted it is planning for nine more ships to return through August, including Anthem of the Seas in the U.K., Serenade and Ovation of the Seas in Alaska, and the brand-new Odyssey of the Seas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the coming weeks, the cruise line will announce plans to reintroduce its full fleet around the globe by year’s end.
According to the company, and specific to Royal Caribbean cruises departing from Florida, it is strongly recommended that guests 16 years of age and older (age 12 and older for sailings departing on or after Aug. 1) be fully vaccinated. Vacationers eligible but unvaccinated or unable to show proof of vaccination are required to undergo testing, follow additional health protocols and obtain travel insurance that covers medical and other costs related to COVID-19 at their own expense. Children ineligible for vaccines will be subject to complimentary testing and other protocols. The vaccine policy is one of the multiple measures, including the robust onboard ventilation system and enhanced cleaning and sanitization, that safeguard the health and safety of all guests, crew members and the communities at each port of call.
Made possible in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as state and local authorities, Freedom is the cruise industry’s first ship to have successfully completed a simulated sailing and receive a Conditional Sailing Certificate from the CDC. The certificate confirms the health and safety measures that Royal Caribbean has in place fulfill the CDC’s guidance and requirements.