Royal Caribbean Group (NYSE: RCL) said yesterday that it had received approval to resume sailings from the United States after more than a year of suspended operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 26, the cruise group will mark a long-awaited return with Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge departing from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“Cruising from the U.S. is back!” said Richard D. Fain, Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO. “After months of working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government officials, our Healthy Sail Panel and industry partners, we can again offer cruise lovers the chance to enjoy the wonders of cruising. We are truly thankful to reach this special milestone.”
The cruise company’s return is heralded with a sailing on its much lauded, state-of-the-art, luxury ship Celebrity Edge. The ship was given the go-ahead by the CDC to be the first ship back in the water with a revenue cruise, meeting all new standards for delivering a safe and healthy cruise experience for guests and crew. The inaugural sailing from Fort Lauderdale sets the stage for Royal Caribbean Group to announce additional itineraries, reviving local U.S. port economies and kick-starting the rebound in cruise tourism around the world.
Royal Caribbean says all sailings will depart with vaccinated crew and everyone over the age of 16 must present proof of vaccination against COVID-19; as of August 1, 2021, all guests ages 12 and older must present proof of vaccination.
The vaccination requirement could put the cruise line on a collision course with Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis who is militantly opposed to “vaccine passports.” A Florida law banning businesses from requiring proof of vaccination takes effect July 1, by which time the Celebrity Edge and its vaccinated passengers will have sailed.
The clearance for the first revenue cruise from a U.S. port since the CDC issued its “no sail” order came just one day after Royal Caribbean got the green light to conduct simulated cruises from PortMiami on the Freedom of the Seas with volunteer passengers in late June to test out its COVID-19 protocols.