- Carnival Cruise Line’s first cruise ship left the US since the pandemic halted its operations.
- The Carnival Vista set sail from Port Galveston, Texas, on Saturday.
- Passengers were required to confirm they were fully vaccinated for COVID-19 prior to boarding.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Carnival Corp, the world’s biggest cruise company, on Saturday launched its first ship from a US port since the pandemic shut down its operations.
Vista set sail from Port Galveston, Texas. The week-long cruise is set to visit spots including Roatán, Mahogany Bay, and Cozumel.
Passengers were required to confirm their status as fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination in advance of boarding, which follows strict guest protocols.
But cruise operators are well aware that being fully vaccinated doesn’t completely remove the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. “If the virus is in the community on land … then of course you can get it on board despite all the things we do,” Carnival’s CEO Arnold Donald recently told Fox Business.
Insider’s Monica Humphries is on the Carnival Vista and reported her first-hand experiences, from boarding to buffet lines, on the vaccinated ship.
Gallery: The first Royal Caribbean cruise in the US just launched after 15 months of no sailing – here’s what happened (Business Insider)
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The first Royal Caribbean cruise in the US just launched after 15 months of no sailing – here’s what happened
- The first cruise sailing out of a US port in over a year departed on Sunday from Florida, Bloomberg reported.
- The Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas cruise is operating as a “simulated voyage.”
- All of the guests – Royal Caribbean employees and their adult plus-ones – are cruising for free.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Lines of people waiting to board a cruise ship may seem like an unfamiliar sight to most Americans now.
But on June 20, these lines were back. The first cruise sailing from a US port in 15 months departed from Miami on Sunday …
… after over a year of no sailings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Jonathan Levin reported for Bloomberg.
But of course, there’s a catch. The sailing isn’t your typical cruise full of sunbathing tourists and packed hallways.
Instead, it’s a “simulated voyage” — which was developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas ship.
These trial sailings are meant to test the safety of cruise ships amid COVID-19 …
… and are supposed to precede the COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate application needed for major cruise lines to resume “restricted passenger voyages.”
The Freedom of the Seas ship is accommodating around 650 guests, Bloomberg reported. But overall, the ship can lodge a little over 4,550 guests.
Source: Royal Caribbean, Bloomberg
The passengers are either Royal Caribbean employees who volunteered to take part in the trial voyages, or their adult plus-one’s.
One of the guests will also include a CDC representative, Marnie Hunter, Leyla Santiago, and Sara Weisfeldt reported for CNN.
And like many other Royal Caribbean sailings, all of the guests aboard this trial voyage are vaccinated.
“The vaccine obviously is a key player here, and a game-changer for us and for the entire society,” Captain Patrik Dahlgren, Royal Caribbean’s senior vice president of Global Marine Operations, told Bloomberg.
The cruise will will sail for two-nights with a stop at Perfect Day at CocoCay, the cruise line’s private island in the Bahamas.
The biggest perk? It’s free for all volunteers.
“I feel really safe with my mask, I’m vaccinated, everyone’s vaccinated, so I feel really good about it,” Carolina Jimenez, one of the non-employee passengers, told Bloomberg.
“It’s unfortunate how long it’s taken to come back, but I think that’s something no one could have controlled, and I’m just glad that now we’re here and getting back to it,” Jimenez continued.
Cruise lines can opt to skip these CDC trial sailings if the companies can prove that 95% of crew and passengers are fully vaccinated.
But it seems like Royal Caribbean has decided to take both approaches: its Celebrity Cruises brand will begin setting sail on June 26 from Florida, fully vaccinated.
Royal Caribbean’s Celebrity brand has a vaccine mandate for crew and guests over 16-years-old, and the CDC has already “greenlit” the sailing despite headwinds from Florida’s vaccine passport ban.
Any unvaccinated Celebrity Cruises guests, or guests unwilling to show proof of vaccination, will have to pay out-of-pocket for additional tests and will face additional on-board restrictions, Aaron Saunders reported for Cruise Critic.
Source: Cruise Critic
Celebrity Cruises did not immediately respond to Insider’s request about how this might impact the June 26 sailing.
The cruise industry is one of the last sectors to try and regain its pre-pandemic activity following the huge disruption caused by the pandemic. According to Donald, its efforts are largely being welcomed by customers eager to get back on the water.
In a second-quarter business update, the company said booking volumes for future cruises were 45% higher compared with the first quarter. It added that 2022 bookings were already higher than in 2019, as previously reported by Insider’s Grace Dean.
People are itching to spend a lot of money on board, too. The CEO of Celebrity Cruises, Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, said travellers are eager to shell out extra cash on casinos, massages, and luxury meals. “They just want to enjoy themselves,” she told Time.
Celebrating Vista’s departure, Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, said in a video posted to Twitter: “Our crew is so very excited and so ready and prepared for this first cruise.”
She added: “The silver lining that’s kept us going is the support and loyalty of our guests.”
Carnival’s next cruise departing from a US port is the Carnival Breeze, scheduled to leave Galveston on July 15.
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