U.S. Cruising Officially Resumes With Sailing of Celebrity Edge
The luxury cruise ship Celebrity Edge departed Port Everglades, Florida on Saturday evening, carrying 1,100 paying guests on the first full-scale commercial cruise from an American port since the COVID shutdown began last year.
"Today marks the rebirth of our company and our industry, as our beautiful Celebrity Edge sets sail on a new-luxury experience that will - once again - feed peoples’ love of travel," said Celebrity CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo in a statement.
"We are elated to once again welcome guests onboard, sailing from south Florida, our home," said Richard Fain, the chairman and CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Group. "Today is a day that brings momentum to our industry and to countless individuals and port communities around the world that are part of our travel and hospitality network."
The Edge is carrying about a third of her rated passenger count, and virtually everyone on board had received a full course of vaccination, thereby satisfying one of the CDC's two options for the resumption of commercial cruising. For vaccinated passengers, masks are not required on board, and social distancing measures are relaxed.
The other CDC compliance option requires each ship to complete a "trial cruise" with volunteer passengers. Many larger cruise ships are pursuing this option, as it lifts vaccination restrictions for the vessel, but the test requirements are rigorous: all participants must be tested for COVID-19 before and after the voyage, and they are subject to post-cruise contact tracing. The Royal Caribbean vessel Freedom of the Seas departed on the industry's first trial cruise from PortMiami on June 20.
Celebrity and Royal Caribbean have been setting the pace for the resumption of service in the industry's busiest region. On June 5, Celebrity Millenium became the industry's first vessel to return to commercial cruising in the North American market. She set sail from St. Maarten on a seven-night itinerary to Aruba, Barbados and Curacao, with paying North American passengers on board. All crew and at least 95 percent of all passengers were fully vaccinated, and the line implemented a range of reduced-contact transaction policies, including a remote muster drill that passengers could complete from their own cabins.
Celebrity Cruises has announced plans to sail eight of its 14 ships in a phased restart program. Celebrity Apex began sailing the Aegean beginning June 19; Celebrity Silhouette will start sailing the UK coastline on July 3; Celebrity Flora, Xpedition and Xploration will return to the Galapagos beginning in July; and Celebrity's sailings to Alaska from Seattle begin again on July 23.