U.S. cruise lovers will finally have a chance to break free from their pandemic cabin fever this weekend.
Celebrity Cruise Line is putting the final touches on its Edge ship to set sail out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday. The voyage will make the Edge the first major cruise ship to return to service from a stateside port since COVID-19 forced the industry to shut down more than a year ago.
Celebrity has decided to take baby steps at first by sailing at 35% capacity with a fully vaccinated crew. The passenger list will be roughly 95% vaccinated. While 100% vaccination level would be an even better mark, the state of Florida has a new state law banning businesses from requiring proof of immunization.
A valuable lesson learned
Earlier this month, Celebrity set sail on a seven-day Caribbean test run to try out its COVID-19 protocols. That turned out to be a smart move because two passengers on that cruise from St. Maarten tested positive for coronavirus.
But the company was quick to respond and made sure that every single passenger on board was tested. The results were all negative and no further positive cases were discovered. The company said its handling of the incident proved that its protocols worked.
Taking it slow and doing it right
Just to be safe, Celebrity is taking three important precautions:
1) Any U.S. citizen age 12 or older must be vaccinated;
2) Unvaccinated passengers will be required to take part in stricter coronavirus procedures than those who’ve had their vaccinations; and
3) Every guest age 16 or older who can’t offer proof of vaccination will be required to wear a mask while on board. They’ll also be subjected to antigen tests during the cruise at their own cost.
“We’re definitely finding that cruisers prefer to be vaccinated and to share this information with us,” said Susan Lomax, associate vice president for global public relations at Celebrity Cruises.
More cruises planned to set sail soon
Now that it’s got the first one ready to sail, Celebrity said that its plans are for eight of the 15 ships in its fleet to return to sailing in 2021.
Celebrity’s Summit is the next ship set to cruise from the U.S. Plans are in place for the Summit to sail to Alaska starting on July 23. In the Caribbean, Celebrity’s Millennium will restart 7-night sailings from St. Maarten on June 5. Other ships set to sail outside of the U.S. this summer include the Celebrity Apex from Athens, Greece, and the Celebrity Silhouette from Southampton, England.