By Ceylan Yeginsu
The Celebrity Edge is poised to set sail out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Saturday, becoming the first major cruise ship to restart operations from a United States port since the pandemic all but hobbled the industry over a year ago.
The ship will sail at 35 percent capacity, with around 95 percent of passengers and all crew members fully vaccinated, its owner, Celebrity Cruises, said in a statement. Vaccines are not mandated for the cruise because of a new Florida state law banning businesses from requiring proof of immunization, but unvaccinated guests will face more stringent coronavirus protocols.
All guests over the age of 16 who do not show proof of vaccination will be required to wear masks on board and take a series of antigen tests during the cruise at an additional cost. (Testing for vaccinated guests will be free of charge.)
“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.
The sailing is a major milestone for the $150 billion global cruise industry, which has been decimated by the pandemic and spent months in a battle with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over its requirements for the safe resumption of cruising.
Earlier this month, Celebrity Cruises tested its Covid protocols during a seven-day sailing in the Caribbean, the line’s first international cruise with American passengers. All adult passengers and crew members were fully vaccinated and were not required to wear masks or socially distance during the sailing.
Halfway through the cruise and following two shore excursions on the islands of Barbados and Aruba, a vaccinated couple tested positive for the virus and were immediately put into isolation. Other passengers who had come into contact with them were required to quarantine and get tested.
Before the ship reached its final destination, all passengers on board were tested, and no further positive cases were identified. Celebrity said the handling of the incident demonstrated that the company’s virus protocols worked in preventing the spread of the virus.
Other major lines, including Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, are preparing to restart U.S. operations in July. As of July 18, cruise ships departing from and arriving in Florida will not be required to follow C.D.C. guidance, after a judge ruled last week that the order was based on “stale data” and failed to take into account the prevalence of effective vaccines.
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