It is an offer that only the seasick could have refused a year ago: cruise for free.
But with the coronavirus being a far graver concern, the Royal Caribbean cruise line announced that it has lined up 100,000 volunteers to join government-ordered test sails for free.
“And just like that … 100,000 people have volunteered,” Royal Caribbean International president and CEO Michael Bayley wrote on Facebook. “We can’t wait to start this next phase with you all. It has been so gratifying to receive literally thousands of emails and calls offering to volunteer.”
Three days before the announcement, Royal Caribbean started a “Volunteers of the Seas” page on Facebook to offer a free sail for human high-seas guinea pigs, er, eager cruisers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established protocols for voyages that will test coronavirus safety measures before a cruise line can resume normal operation from U.S. ports.
The Royal Caribbean volunteer cruises will likely sail to one of the company’s private islands in the Bahamas next year.
“While we are eager to welcome our guests back on board, we have a lot do between now and then, and we’re committed to taking the time to do things right,” a Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Travel & Leisure. “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.”
Under CDC protocols, the volunteers can’t be paid and must acknowledge in writing that they risk contracting COVID-19. But can they be offered an open bar? That would alleviate a lot of angst.