a cruise ship in the water

Miss cruising? Want to be a part of one of the first journeys back in the wild, but don’t want to pay a cent? Royal Caribbean has you covered, maybe.

The acclaimed mega cruise brand is hoping to get sailing again, but it wants to be sure the new covid-19 protocols put in place on board work sustainably for the future, and it needs guinea pigs volunteers who are happy to trade a free adventure for a little bit of research. What’s the worst that could happen, right?

Royal Caribbean Volunteer Program

Royal Caribbean says it’s being inundated with thousands of requests, after the recent launch of an appeal for volunteers to test out new covid-19 related protocols required by the US Centers For Disease Control (CDC), in order to receive a conditional approval to sail once again. The volunteers would take part in a series of “mock” cruises, without paying passengers.

You can still apply for the program, according to CNN Travel via a Royal Caribbean spokesperson. It’s unclear how selection criteria will apply.

They’ll likely need guests from a variety of age groups and backgrounds to get an accurate picture of risk. Ultimately, despite risks, these mock cruises could play a large and vita part in proving any potential efficacy in covid-19 measures put in place, which could make the industry less of a worry in the future. That is, if they work.

If they don’t Royal Caribbean would have an easier path to controlling the narrative, or having all guests sign non-disclosure agreements to take part, which could bar them from sharing news of any positive tests on board. It all remains to be sea-n.

The cruise would depart from Royal Caribbean’s private island, which should at least make it harder for authorities to refuse to allow the ship to dock, in the event that any spread does occur.

a cruise ship in the water

Trouble At Sea

The new offer comes in the same week that the first cruise voyage to set sail in the Caribbean since covid-19 began incurred at least 6 positive cases on board, requiring all guests to shelter in their cabins, with over 10% of guests on the ship testing positive.

Despite all evidence stating that a singular covid-19 test cannot undoubtedly confirm 100% whether a passenger is incubating the disease, the cruise in question set sail on a ‘no mask’ required basis.

Apparently, “no masks” was quite a draw to the guests on board, and many were furious when masks were required from day four, as news of a potentially ill passenger spread around the ship.

In fairness to SeaDream, the operated of the covid-19 riddled cruise, this would have been impossible to predict from an epidemiological standpoint, if you ignored every epidemiological standpoint when designing your covid-19 protocols.

Cruise Control

The CDC will ultimately decide whether cruise lines have done enough to future proof and virus proof their ships, to prevent super spreader events, which garnered world headlines in the early months of covid-19. If measures appear to be working, cruises could begin in the US and Caribbean from early 2021.

But just as the cruise industry is hoping to ramp things up, many destinations are looking for alternatives to the high volume, low spend method of tourism. Key West passed proposals to ban large cruise ships, citing that the average cruise guest spends $32 on the island, whereas the average overnight guest spends more than $500.

For destinations which rely on delicate natural resources, such as coral reefs, marine life or clear waters, cruises, known for excess waste, present long term challenges. In Europe, ports such as La Spezia, Venice, Santorini, all experienced a boom in overnight guests, who once shied away from the overcrowded destinations.

Whatever your opinion, Royal Caribbean is offering a way to experience the unique method of travel once again, and if you’re one of the lucky volunteers selected, you won’t even have to pay.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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