FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Celebrity Cruises is marking the return of revenue-based cruising in U.S. waters after getting the green light from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sail this June.
The Celebrity Edge ship will depart on June 26 from Fort Lauderdale for a seven-night cruise of the Caribbean.
"Celebrity Edge was given the green light by the CDC to be the first ship back in the water, having met all-new standards for providing a healthy cruise experience for its guests and crew," the cruise line wrote in a press release.
The cruise line is a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean which was just approved for simulated cruises in late June with volunteer passengers. The first test trip will depart from PortMiami from June 20-22 on the Freedom of the Seas ship.
"CDC has provisionally approved one cruise ship from Royal Caribbean to begin restricted revenue sailing in June, following a request for a conditional sailing certificate and the submission of an accurate and complete port agreement," a CDC spokesperson wrote in an email to 10 Tampa Bay.
It adds the CDC and cruise industry agree that the industry has what is needed in place to move forward and that "no additional roadblocks exist" for sailing to resume by mid-summer.
“The power of travel has a way of healing our souls as we connect with cultures, sights, and experiences that bring greater joy and renewed energy to our lives. Nothing compares to these experiences at sea and now the wonder of these journeys returns," Celebrity Cruises CEO and President Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said. "We’ve been preparing for this day for months and, on behalf of all of us at Celebrity Cruises, we’re ready and we can’t wait to welcome our guests aboard once again!”
Under the CDC's latest guidelines, ships can bypass a test voyage before opening it to paying passengers if 98 percent of the crew and 95 percent of guests on board are vaccinated.
"That's to protect not just themselves and the other passengers. It really protects the economic viability of the cruise ship industry," said Dr. Jay Wolfson of the University of South Florida.
Celebrity Cruises says it plans to sail with a fully vaccinated crew and that U.S. guests ages 16 and older must be fully vaccinated to cruise with the company. That requirement will expand to guests ages 12 and older on Aug. 1, 2021.
Requirements for non-U.S. passengers vary, according to the cruise line. You can find out more information about COVID-19 regulations while sailing here.
Gov. Ron DeSantis' office offered the following statement regarding the scheduled sailing:
"Celebrity Cruises’ vaccine requirements violate the spirit of the Governor’s Emergency Order 21-81, which prohibits vaccine passports and protects the fundamental rights of Floridians – including the right to medical privacy. The policy would also be a violation of Florida’s recently enacted law banning vaccine passports, SB 2006, effective July 1. Companies doing business in Florida, including Celebrity Cruises, should immediately cease to impose such discriminatory policies upon individuals. Companies that violate this law would be subject to a fine of $5,000 each time they require a customer to present a “vaccine passport” for service."
The governor's office adds that requirements to prove vaccinations are an invasion of Floridians' medical privacy and that mandating someone to prove they've been inoculated creates "two unequal classes of citizens based on vaccination status."
"Allowing companies like Celebrity Cruises to require 'vaccine passports' for customers would mean tolerating discrimination by private businesses, which is unacceptable in Florida," a press secretary wrote.
Gov. DeSantis rather looks to have Floridians make decisions they believe are best for themselves and their families regarding inoculation.
Public Health and Law professor Dr. Jay Wolfson told 10 Tampa Bay in April the new law won't stop cruising from occurring in the state.
"They can legally ask you for proof of vaccination. They're not a Florida company. I don't think any of them really are. I don't think the governor would stand in the way of that happening," Wolfson said.
Earlier this year, DeSantis announced a lawsuit against the CDC regarding the halting of cruises. According to the suit, the no sail order has negatively impacted Florida's economy and kept tens of thousands of Floridians who depend on the industry out of work.
10 Tampa Bay has reached out to Celebrity Cruises for clarity on how those booking sailings will know when the limited capacity for unvaccinated guests is reached. This story will be updated when we hear back.
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