The first ship to set sail from a US port since the COVID-19 pandemic had brought the maritime industry to a 15-month standstill sailed on Saturday with nearly all vaccinated guests. Celebrity Edge set sail from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at 6 p.m. with passengers limited to about 40% capacity.
Celebrity Cruises, one of Royal Caribbean Cruise’s brands, had 99% of the passengers vaccinated, over the 95% mandate imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Passengers arrived in matching T-shirts that had imprinted slogans like “vaccinated and ready to cruise” and “straight outta vaccination”. In compliance with the CDC’s mandate and a new Florida law limiting businesses from needing customers to share the proof of vaccination, Celebrity Cruises asked its passengers if they would be comfortable sharing their COVID-19 vaccination status.
Those guests who refused to provide proof or mention that they have been vaccinated encountered additional restrictions. Saturday’s sailing kicked off the cruise lines’ return to business with several Carnival vessels scheduled to set sail next month from other ports.
It is an emotional affair for chief executive Richard Fain. When he stepped on the ship, he felt proud. He described the ship to be a “beautiful ship”.
Celebrity Cruises had first introduced the $1 billion luxury boat in December 2018. It promised a giant spa and luxurious multi-floor suites. The seven-night cruise will be sailing for three days in the western Caribbean seas before stopping in Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Nassau.
Captain Kate McCue is leading the Celebrity Edge. She is the first American woman helming a cruise ship. She said that one could feel the sense of energy and excitement in the group as preparations were being done to welcome guests onboard. She has never seen a group so excited to resume work.
Officials are hoping that everything works fine and the industry moves past a chapter of unprecedented COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships that may again result in rejection of ships at ports and guests to quarantine forcefully.
The CDC extended no-sail orders several times last year as the COVID-19 pandemic raged, and kept introducing stringent protocols for the industry that have also been contested at the court by Florida.