All aboard! First cruise ship after the pandemic is ready to sail | lifestyle

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) – The first cruise ship to leave a U.S. port since the coronavirus pandemic brought the industry to a 15-month stalemate is preparing to sea with nearly all vaccinated passengers on board sting.

Celebrity Edge will leave Fort Lauderdale, Florida at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday with the number of passengers capped to about 40% and virtually all passengers vaccinated against COVID-19. Celebrity Cruises, one of the Royal Caribbean Cruise brands, says 99% of passengers are vaccinated, which is well above the 95% requirement mandated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A huge greeting was projected on the wall of one of the port buildings: “Someday is here. Welcome back.”

The passengers arrived with matching T-shirts on which sentences like “straight from the vaccination” and “vaccinated and ready to cruise” could be read.

“Words cannot describe how excited we are today to be a part of this historic sailing,” said Elizabeth Rosner, 28, who moved from Michigan to Orlando, Florida with her fiancé in December 2019 just to get close to the cruise industry Hub.

In order to meet both CDC requirements and a new Florida law prohibiting companies from requiring customers to provide proof of vaccination, Celebrity Cruises is asking guests if they would like to share their vaccination status. Those who have not been vaccinated or who do not report face additional restrictions.

With the sailing on Saturday, the return of the cruise ships to the business of Carnival ships, which are scheduled to depart from other ports as early as next month, begins.

“This is an emotional day for me. When I got on the ship, I was proud. It’s a beautiful ship, ”said Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, after offering condolences to the victims of the collapse of the Surfside building less than 15 miles south of the port.

Celebrity Cruises unveiled the $ 1 billion boat in December 2018 – betting on luxury cruises with a huge spa and multi-story suites. The seven-day cruise will sail for three days in the waters of the western Caribbean before stopping at Costa Maya, Cozumel and Nassau.

The ship is led by Captain Kate McCue, the first American to command a cruise ship and has more than 1 million followers on TikTok.

“You can really feel the excitement and energy in the group as we prepare to greet our first guests,” said McCue. “I’ve never seen a group so excited to get back to work.”

Industry officials are hoping everything will go smoothly to overcome a chapter of deadly outbreaks on cruise lines last year that resulted in ships being rejected in ports and passengers being quarantined. Some passengers died of COVID-19 at sea, while others became so sick that they had to be carried by the ships on stretchers.

The CDC repeatedly extended no-sail orders last year as the pandemic raged and placed stringent requirements on the industry that have already been challenged in court by the state of Florida. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says industry generates billions for the state’s economy.

On Saturday, Port Everglades officials in Fort Lauderdale only said that the port lost more than $ 30 million in revenue in fiscal 2020 due to the cruise shutdown.

During that hiatus, Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, the top three cruise lines, had to raise more than $ 40 billion in funding to stay afloat. Taken together, they lost $ 20 billion last year and another $ 4.5 billion in the first quarter of 2021, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

The pandemic forced Kurt and Carol Budde to cancel their beach party wedding on board the world’s largest ship, the Symphony of the Seas, in March 2020. COVID-19 suspended the cruise six days before the scheduled wedding in St. Maarten. Kurt Budde’s part-time job as a travel agent has also stalled.

“It’s a honeymoon makeup cruise,” said Kurt Budde, wearing matching shirts that read “On Cruise Control.”

“We are leading our best life today after COVID,” he said.

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