First US trial cruise returns to PortMiami after testing COVID safety protocols

Channel 7 News Miami

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MIAMI (WSVN) – After a two-night trip, Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas has returned to port.

The cruise ship returned to PortMiami early Tuesday morning after setting sail with around 600 vaccinated volunteer employees.

The employees acted as passengers so Royal Caribbean could test COVID-19 safety protocols.

Some of the protocols included masks being required in certain areas like shops but not outdoors.

“I had a little bit of heightened awareness with distancing, but honestly, everything that I think you would normally want to do on a cruise ship you could do,” said volunteer employee Elisa Shen.

“You felt like totally normal,” said volunteer employee Tyler Segal. “You’re sanitizing more than usual.”

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were also on board the ship to observe operations.

Segal played the role of an unvaccinated guest.

“I got tested before getting on and then I got on board, and there were a few spots that were designated for vaccinated guests only, but it did not have an impact on the cruise,” he said.

Once the ship officially sets sail on July 2, Royal Caribbean will require unvaccinated passengers to get a PCR test within 72 hours before the cruise.

The passengers will also have to get tested at the port in testing rooms before setting sail.

“Rapid antigen test on the ship and a rapid PCR test off the ship,” said Greg Bokar with BioReference.

Laura Hodges Bethge explained to 7News what happens if a guest shows COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive.

“They’re isolated in their state room. We have an enhanced medical facility on board, so we have doctors and nurses that are ready and able to assist,” she said.

For more information on what to expect on a Royal Caribbean cruise, click here.

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