As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now requiring cruise lines to hold mock voyages to test onboard COVID-19 protocols, thousands of people are willing to sign up as volunteer passengers.

Cruise ships have been left adrift for months as officials grapple with ways to create a safe onboard experience. And now that the CDC has dropped its "no sail order" and announced new safety regulations, cruise lines are keen to get moving again. But in order to do so the CDC recommends they follow "a phased approach" with a "framework of actionable items."

During the first phase, cruise lines must demonstrate adherence to testing, quarantine, isolation and social distancing. Subsequent phases will include mock cruises where volunteers play the role of passengers to "test cruise ship operators' ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk". That way problems can be identified and fixed before sailing resumes.

Passengers relax as the Oasis of the Seas departs the Bahamas
Passengers would enjoy cruise ship activities while trailing COVID-19 protocols ©Ruth Peterkin/Shutterstock

And it would appear that there are plenty of people who are willing to sign up to the program. Earlier this week it was widely reported that Royal Caribbean would be seeking volunteers to take part in its trial sailings. A spokesperson for the company told Lonely Planet that it had received more than 5000 emails from potential volunteers — not including tweets, comments and messages across social media — but it has no plans to set sail, or hire anyone, just yet.

"We have been overjoyed with their interest," the company stated. "We have a lot of details to work out to make sure everyone's experience on board is as safe and as enjoyable as we can make it. So, while we currently have no dates to announce yet, we are excited about the interest we have received so far — we can't wait to finally welcome our guests back on board."

Royal Caribbean cruise ship Allure of the Seas docked at port with a sea iguana in the foreground
Royal Caribbean cruise ship Allure of the Seas docked at port ©Nathan Bai/Shutterstock

It is also not yet clear if volunteers would be paid for the experience. But they would avail of cruise amenities and activities from dining to entertainment and private excursions — in addition to trailing health and safety protocols on board the ship, including laboratory testing every time they embark and disembark.

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