World's 1st post-pandemic cruise to set sail with 99% passengers vaccinated
In a style reminiscent of Snowpiercer, the world is set to witness the first cruise ship start its engine after 15 months of pandemic-induced standstill from a US port. What will be the most unique part of this cruise is that nearly all - 99% - passengers aboard the ship will be vaccinated against the infectious coronavirus disease.
Named Celebrity Edge, the cruise will depart from Florida's Fort Lauderdale at 6 pm on Saturday. The number of passengers on the ship has been limited to about 40% of the capacity. The cruise is meeting the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines which require at least 95% of the people to be vaccinated.
On the Celebrity Edge, 99% of the passengers are vaccinated, according to Celebrity Cruises, a royal Caribbean cruise brand.
In the set of restrictions for passengers on the Celebrity Edge, the authorities are asking for proof of vaccination, as prescribed by the CDC. A new Florida law also bans businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination.
Those who wish to join the cruise will be asked to share their vaccination status and those who do not show proof of being vaccinated against the disease will face additional restrictions.
The cruise lines are returning to business signalling cheer for the sector which will see Carnival vessels slated to depart from other ports next month.
Marking another first, the ship will be led by Captain Kate McCue - the first American woman to captain the cruise ship. The $1 billion boat offers a giant spa and multi floor suites.
“Words can't describe how excited we are to be a part of this historic sailing today,” Elizabeth Rosner told AP. The 28-year-old moved from Michigan to Orlando, Florida, in December 2019 with her fiance just to be close to the cruise industry's hub.
Scarred by the memories of ships and cruises forced to be stranded after finding Covid-19 cases and isolated without much assistance from the outside world, the industry officials are keeping their fingers crossed. They are hoping to move past the episodes from last year which saw many ships getting rejected at ports and passengers getting isolated when the world was still coming to terms with the disease outbreak.
While some passengers died of Covid-19 at sea, others fell so ill they had to be carried out of the vessels on stretchers.
Witnessing the crisis unfold, the CDC put no-sail orders repeatedly last year as the pandemic raged, and came up with strict requirements for the industry that have already been contested in court by the state of Florida.
On Saturday, officials at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale said only that the port lost more than $30 million in revenue in fiscal year 2020 from the cruise shutdown.
During that hiatus, Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean, the three largest cruise companies, have had to raise more than $40 billion in financing just to stay afloat. Collectively they lost $20 billion last year and another $4.5 billion in the first quarter of 2021, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Couples are getting a second shot at designing special memories with vaccines playing the role of artillery. The pandemic forced Kurt and Carol Budde to cancel their beach celebration wedding aboard the world's largest ship, Symphony of the Seas, in March 2020. Covid-19 halted cruising six days before they were scheduled to tie the knot in St. Maarten. Kurt Budde's part-time gig as a travel agent also dried up.
“It's a honeymoon make-up cruise,” said Kurt Budde, sporting matching shirts with the phrase “On Cruise Control."
“We are living our best lives post Covid-19 today," he said.
With inputs from AP