I recently sailed on a CDC test cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas. There were 900 guests on a ship that holds over 6,000. The purpose of the test cruises is to make sure the crew adhered to and enforced the healthy sailing parameters set forth by the CDC.
The goal of this article is not to persuade you to cruise right now. Rather, my goal is to educate you on what’s really happening on these ships so you can make an informed decision on whether to cruise now or wait.
The majority of the check-in process is done using the Royal Caribbean app. You’ll need to register and upload a photo of yourself and scan your passport. This makes checking in at the port a breeze. With so few people on the ship, it took us about 10 minutes from the time we entered the port building until we entered the ship.
When you check in using the app, you’ll need to choose a port arrival time. If you arrive earlier than you check-in time they’ll make you wait. Staggered check-in times allow for social distancing and they won’t make exceptions for this.
All guests and crew on this cruise were vaccinated but we still had to provide a negative PCR test 3 days before our sail date (changed recently to 2 days). We also had to show proof of vaccination before entering the terminal and then again inside the terminal.
Royal Caribbean had begun working on an electronic version of the muster drill before COVID descended upon us. During the 18 months when they weren’t sailing they worked on completing this through their app. Gone are the days when they close down the bars and all guests go to their assigned muster stations for the hour-long safety briefing. Muster 2.0 is now available on the app. You view the safety video the day before you sail then after boarding you report to your assigned muster station and check in with a crew member.
Safety and Cleanliness
The crew works relentlessly to make sure all common areas of the ship are sanitized: the escalator hand rails, stairwell handrails, elevator buttons, and tables and chairs. Every restaurant, store and entertainment venue has Purell sanitization stations at every entrance and exit. You’re required to sanitize when entering and you’ll be turned around and reminded if you happen to walk past the station.
Tables and chairs have signs on them indicating if they have been sanitized. If so, you can occupy the table and they’ll come by and flip the sign to the opposite side that will tell the next guests they cannot sit there until sanitized. All self serve drink stations are now manned by a crew member who will hand you the drink of your choice. The buffet restaurant still exists but you will not be able to serve yourself. A crew member will fill your plate.
Masks are required whenever you’re indoors unless you’re sitting down and actively eating and drinking. If you happen to sit in an indoor common area to listen to music you must still wear your mask unless you have a drink in hand.
Masks are not required outdoors unless you’re in a crowd. Masks are worn by the crew both inside and outside.
In indoor entertainment venues every other row is closed for social distancing. You must also have at least one seat between you and the next party. Reservations via the app are required at all entertainment venues and many restaurants to ensure social distancing.
Luckily I didn’t have to visit the medical facility while on the ship but all medical facilities on every ship in the fleet are now hospital grade.
Not once did I feel unsafe on this ship. The purpose of the CDC Healthy Sailing guidelines is to ensure health and safety protections for travelers (crew and future passengers) and port personnel prior to resuming passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of spreading COVID-19. The key word here is “mitigate”. COVID-19 seems like it will be with us for some time to come so it will be impossible to eliminate the risks.
When you feel confident enough to cruise, I’ll be here to help you find the right ship and itinerary so you can take that vacation you’ve been wanting and needing for almost 2 years now.