All aboard! America’s first post-pandemic cruise ship takes off
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida. – The first cruise ship to leave a U.S. port since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the industry for 15 months left on Saturday with nearly all passengers vaccinated on board.
Celebrity Edge departed Fort Lauderdale, Florida at 6 p.m. with passenger numbers limited to about 40 percent of capacity, and with nearly all 1,100 passengers vaccinated against COVID-19. Celebrity Cruises, one of Royal Caribbean Cruise’s brands, says 99% of passengers are vaccinated, well above the 95% requirement imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A giant salute was projected on a wall of one of the harbor buildings: “One day is here. Welcome back.”
Passengers arrived with matching T-shirts that read phrases such as “straight out of the vaccination” and “vaccinated and ready to go on a cruise.”
“Words cannot describe how thrilled we are to be a part of this historic navigation today,” said Elizabeth Rosner, 28, who moved from Michigan to Orlando, Florida in December 2019 with her just fiance. to be close to the cruise industry. center.
To comply with both CDC requirements and a new Florida law that prohibits companies from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination, Celebrity Cruises asked customers if they wanted to share their vaccination status. Those who have not shown up or have not declared themselves vaccinated face additional restrictions.
Saturday’s sailing kicks off a return to business for cruise passengers with Carnival ships already scheduled to depart from other ports next month.
“It’s an emotional day for me. When I got on the ship I was proud. It’s a beautiful vessel,” said Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain after expressing his condolences to victims of the Surfside building collapse, less than 15 miles (approximately 24 kilometers) south of the harbor.
Celebrity Cruises unveiled the billion-dollar boat in December 2018 – betting on the luxury cruise, offering a giant spa and multi-story suites. The seven-night cruise will sail for three days in the waters of the Western Caribbean before calling in Costa Maya, Cozumel and Nassau.
The ship is run by Captain Kate McCue, the first American woman to captain a cruise ship, who has more than one million followers on TikTok.
“You can really feel the palpable feeling of excitement and energy within the group as we prepare to welcome our first guests,” said McCue. “Honestly, I have never seen a group so excited to get back to work.
Industry officials are hopeful things will go well to overcome a chapter of deadly epidemics on cruise ships last year that caused ships to be dumped in ports and passengers to be quarantined. Some passengers died from COVID-19 at sea while others fell so ill they had to be carried off ships on stretchers.
The CDC has repeatedly extended no-boating orders last year as the pandemic raged and proposed strict requirements for the industry that have already been challenged in court by the state of Florida. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says the industry generates billions for the state’s economy.
Officials at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday said that port lost more than $ 30 million in revenue in fiscal 2020 due to the cruise closure.
During that hiatus, Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, the three largest cruise lines, had to raise more than $ 40 billion in funding just to stay afloat. Collectively, they lost $ 20 billion last year and an additional $ 4.5 billion in the first quarter of 2021, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents.
The pandemic forced Kurt and Carol Budde to call off their beach wedding aboard the world’s largest ship, the Symphony of the Seas, in March 2020. COVID-19 halted the cruise six days ahead of the scheduled wedding date. in Saint-Martin. Kurt Budde’s part-time job as a travel agent has also dried up.
“It’s a honeymoon makeup cruise,” said Kurt Budde, wearing matching shirts with the phrase “On Cruise Control”.
“We are living our best lives after COVID today,” he said.