After a nearly 500-day pause, cruises departing the United States are finally set to make a return.
Royal Caribbean Group — parent of several lines including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and more — announced it will sail starting with Celebrity Edge departing Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale on June 26.
“Cruising from the U.S. is back!” said Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Group’s CEO. “After months of working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government officials, our Healthy Sail Panel and industry partners, we can again offer cruise lovers the chance to enjoy the wonders of cruising. We are truly thankful to reach this special milestone.”
Celebrity Edge was given the ok to be the first large ship back by the CDC, according to the company. Not only will there be new policies in place for keeping everyone healthy while on the cruise, but it will also sail with vaccinated crew and adult passengers. Passengers over 16 must also be vaccinated to sail the first cruises, and passengers over 12 must have the shot after August 1, 2021.
According to Celebrity’s website, all guests 2-15 will require an antigen virus test at the terminal before embarkation.
The first cruise sails starting June 26 on a 7-night trip departing Florida and headed to Mexico (Costa Maya, Cozumel) and The Bahamas (Nassau). Prices on Celebrity’s website start at $1,739 per person for the inaugural cruise.
Inside and oceanview cabins show as not available, but balcony cabins (known as “Verandah” on Celebrity) can be booked.
After Months of Waiting, Progress in Weeks
It has been a long process — and a long time waiting — for the announcement of the first CDC-approved cruise to return. Since the “No Sail Order” was lifted and replaced in October 2020 with the Conditional Sail Order that would allow ships to eventually return, there had been a slow process to actually get ships back with passengers.
In fact, just last month the cruise industry as a whole lashed out against the order as being burdensome and called for a return to cruising. The state of Florida even filed suit against the CDC and others to allow trips to sail.
The past several weeks have shown significant progress, however. Optimistic words from both the CDC and cruise lines had said that a mid-July restart was possible. There were also mentions that talks between the industry and the government were productive.
Just days ago cruise lines announced plans for Alaskan sailings, and Royal Caribbean announced its first simulated test cruise.
Now we have the first CDC-approved trip from a U.S. port aboard a major cruise line since the start of the health crisis.
More Cruises Certainly Ahead, But Questions Remain
Now that the first trip is approved, we expect the proverbial “dam to break” regarding the announcement of other cruise lines and ships. Expect a number of more trips to be officially on the books in the days ahead.
“The inaugural sailing from Fort Lauderdale sets the stage for Royal Caribbean Group to announce additional itineraries,” the company said.
There are still plenty of hurdles to overcome. This includes both the question of vaccine requirements and sailing from Florida. We expect that the trips back soonest will sail with fully vaccinated passengers as the CDC has allowed them a faster path to return. Non-vaccinated sailings might take slightly longer to set sail.
Then there is still the question of requiring a vaccine for cruises from Florida. Florida law says that businesses can’t require proof of vaccination from its customers, yet cruise lines like Celebrity are asking for proof to set sail. One cruise company even said they may sail from somewhere else if need be.
It’s not clear just yet how that will work, but given there is incentive on both sides to come to a compromise, we expect some sort of deal to be reached soon.