- The cruise industry came to an abrupt halt in March as the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus a global pandemic.
- Before cruise lines are allowed to officially set sail again, they’re legally mandated to run test cruises – and Royal Caribbean has already signed up 100,000 willing volunteers, the company’s president said.
- Last week, the first cruise to sail the Caribbean in months was forced to return to port amid a coronavirus outbreak among passengers.
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Royal Caribbean, one of the biggest operators in the largest cruise market in the world, says it has already signed up 100,000 volunteers to cruise on its test voyages â€” the first since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the cruise industry back in March.
“Just like thatâ€¦100,000 people have volunteered. We can’t wait to start this next phase with you all!” Royal Caribbean CEO Michael Bayley said in a Facebook post, first spotted by the New York Post.
The company announced plans for its first volunteer cruises earlier this month, which Bayley said prompted, “literally thousands of emails and calls offering to volunteer.” A Facebook page was created, and over 100,000 people have since signed up, he said. Royal Caribbean isn’t charging anything for the test cruises.
Royal Caribbean’s test cruises will take passengers to the company’s private island, CocoCay, which is intended to be a kind of “bubble” away from the pandemic.
Since the World Health Organisation declared coronavirus to be a pandemic in March, the cruise industry has been at a standstill. A handful of cruise ships became floating coronavirus hot spots, further hurting an already bruised business. For much of 2020, cruise ships have been docked and travel hasn’t been allowed. Starting in early November, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines for cruises to operate once again.
The first cruise to return to the Caribbean set sail earlier on November 7: SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream I had just 55 passengers and 66 crew members aboard, and passengers were required to get tested for the coronavirus several days before boarding, again on the day of boarding, and yet again several days later.
Despite strict safety guidelines, a coronavirus outbreak on board forced the cruise to return to port. Nine people in total tested positive for the virus, according to the cruise operator.
As a result, it has halted cruises for the rest of the year.
Coronavirus cases are on the rise in the United States, according to the World Health Organisation, with deaths now topping 246,000.
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