A major cruise line will sail from a US port this weekend for the first time in 15 months

Jun 25, 2021

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The long-awaited comeback of big-ship cruising out of U.S. waters finally is at hand.

In a milestone moment for the cruise industry that surely will have cruise fans celebrating, Celebrity Cruises on Saturday will kick off the first big-ship voyage out of a U.S. port since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The seven-night sailing out of Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades will break an unprecedented, 15-month period without a single sailing in U.S. waters by a major cruise vessel.

The last cruise departure out of a U.S. port by a major cruise ship took place in early March of 2020, just before cruise lines around the world halted operations due to the pandemic.

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The Celebrity sailing on Saturday will take place on the line’s 2,908-passenger Celebrity Edge and feature calls at Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, and Nassau in the Bahamas.

Celebrity will be just the first of several major cruise lines to restart operations out of U.S. ports in the coming weeks.

The world’s largest cruise line, Royal Caribbean, will launch its first sailing out of a U.S. port since the start of the pandemic on July 2 with a voyage from Port Canaveral, Florida.

Carnival Cruise Line will restart U.S. operations just a day later with sailings out of Galveston, Texas, on July 3 and out of Miami on July 4. Carnival will restart operations out of Port Canaveral on July 31.

Celebrity Edge is one of Celebrity’s newest vessels. (Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

In addition, seven separate major cruise lines have announced plans to restart cruises out of Seattle to Alaska in July and August.

While many major U.S. vacation destinations on land including Disneyland in California have reopened to tourists in recent months as COVID-19 cases have fallen, cruise lines have been delayed in restarting sailings in U.S. waters due to restrictions implemented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Until recently, the CDC had blocked all but the smallest cruise ships from sailing in U.S. waters. This effectively shut down big-ship cruising in not just U.S. waters but also all of North America. Most big cruise ships that sail in North America use U.S. ports as a base.   

While Celebrity Edge is the first big cruise ship to restart operations out of a U.S. port since the coronavirus pandemic began, it’s not the first cruise ship to restart operations in North America.

Both Celebrity and Royal Caribbean have restarted Caribbean voyages in recent weeks with sailings out of non-U.S. ports such as Nassau.

There also have been dozens of cruises on small riverboats and other small vessels operated in the past three months on U.S. rivers and intracoastal waters. All of the trips have been on vessels that carry fewer than 250 passengers and crew, which are not subject to CDC regulation.

Still, the Celebrity Edge sailing this weekend marks what many consider the true kickoff to the return of cruising in North America, and it’s a major milestone for the comeback of cruising around the world.

Cruises from U.S. ports — particularly the Florida ports of Port Everglades, Port Canaveral and PortMiami — account for a significant percentage of all cruises taken worldwide.

Like all the lines in the midst of restarting departures, Celebrity is implementing a long list of new health and safety measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on board Celebrity Edge.

The new measures include sailing with at least 95% of passengers fully vaccinated for COVID-19. To clear that hurdle, the line initially planned to require all passengers 16 years of age and older to show proof of vaccination before boarding. But due to a new Florida law forbidding such a requirement, the line plans only to ask passengers to volunteer such information.

Passengers who don’t show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination will face significantly different health protocols while sailing including a requirement for multiple COVID-19 tests at their own expense and a mask-wearing requirement.

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Featured image of courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

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