(7:15 p.m.) – Celebrity Edge has received approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to return to service from Fort Lauderdale on June 26, making it the first ship scheduled to sail out of an American homeport since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The ship will require U.S. passengers over 16 to be fully vaccinated, with the requirement adjusting to guests 12 and older on August 1, 2021. The crew will be fully vaccinated, and it will be captained by Kate McCue, the first American female cruise ship captain (and a social media star in her own right).
Celebrity Edge will alternate Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. The first sailing will visit Costa Maya, Cozumel and Nassau.
The news marks a milestone for an industry that has been shut down in the United States since March 2020.
"Someday is here," Celebrity Cruises' President Lisa Lutoff-Perlo tweeted.
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“Today’s exciting news is the result of a collaboration with the CDC, our elected officials at the local, state and national levels and our industry partners at CLIA,” said Richard Fain, Chairman of Royal Caribbean Group, which owns Celebrity Cruises. “We’ve consulted with the brightest minds in the health industry to ensure that our passengers and crew feel safe and comfortable on our ships while enjoying the uncompromised experience they know and love.”
Celebrity is also slated to be the first large cruise line sailing in North America, with its first St. Maarten-based cruise departing on June 5. Its newest ship, Celebrity Apex, is debuting in Greece on June 19.
In total, the line has announced 2021 return dates for eight of its 15 ships, including in Europe, Alaska, the Caribbean and the Galapagos.
Because Celebrity sailings will meet the threshold of vaccinated passengers, masks will not be required onboard for people who have had the shots, according to new guidance released by the CDC today.
The line's stance on vaccines does put it into conflict with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who spearheaded a state law that forbids businesses from asking customers about their inoculation status is threatening to fine Celebrity $5,000 for each passenger asked to show vaccination status, the governor's office said.
However, Celebrity's senior vice president of sales said the line was working closely with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Carnival Corp. and the governor's office to show how cruising requires different protocols from land-based activities:
"Our governor was the one that started really pushing the CDC," said Dondra Ritzenthaler. "…when he came out with the policy that says he will not require in the State of Florida people to show vaccinations….he was talking about bars, restaurants, Disney, not cruise ships.
"Our chairman, Governor DeSantis, the chairman of Norwegian, the chairman of Carnival, we're ironing out a statement that indicates how cruising will be different from the rest of the state.
"What we're working through is how we word it to where people in Florida will not have to show vaccination proof to go to WalMart and Target, but how cruising is different and what the CDC is requiring."
She said that they were close to a solution, but not quite there yet, adding: "We are 100 percent aligned."
Said the line in a statement: "We are working with all local authorities to finalize our health and safety measures for cruises departing from Florida."