Wanted: human guinea pigs on the high seas.
Cruise giant Royal Caribbean is looking for intrepid volunteers with the guts to climb aboard a cruise ship during the COVID-19 pandemic in exchange for a free ride.
Cruise junkies are being asked to mimic being a passenger on a cruise — by being an actual passenger on a cruise — to help the ships test new coronavirus protocols.
“While we are eager to welcome our guests back on board, we have a lot to do between now and then, and we’re committed to taking the time to do things right,” the cruise line spokesman told T+L. “This includes training our crew in new health and safety protocols and conducting a number of trial sailings to stress-test those protocols in real-world conditions.”
It’s part of a new CDC ruling that lifted the health organization’s “no sail order” as of Nov. 1 and issued new phased guidelines for working with cruise ships to get back on the water.
Among those protocols: Crew members now must be tested for COVID-19, and cruise lines must evaluate their ability to mitigate the risk of the virus through simulated voyages.
“We are going to be doing a series of sailings using our employees and other volunteers to test out the protocols and make modifications,” Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of sales and trade support told Cruise Industry News.
Those who volunteer will get the chance to cruise for free but according to industry insiders, the trip won’t be all smooth sailing.
“It’s unlikely these test cruises will feel like a standard cruise vacation, as they are designed for lines to assure that protocols in place are effective,” Colleen McDaniel, the editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, told T+L.
Nevertheless, McDaniel said there has thus far been no shortage of boat-happy lab rats ready to shove off — despite the fact that more than 90,000 people were trapped on cruise ships under the “no sail order.”
Royal Caribbean is currently searching for volunteers for cruises beginning in 2021. The maiden voyage is most likely to CocoCay, the company’s private island in the Bahamas 55 miles north of Nassau.
Cruises to CocoCay on the company’s website include the three-day “Perfect Day” option, which includes a stretch from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for exploration of the island’s beaches and amusement park-like offerings, such as the 135-foot waterslide Daredevil’s Peak — a fitting destination for an ominous adventure.